​U of C launches new R&D centre for methane emissions tech

The University of Calgary has launched a new research platform designed to develop technologies aimed at better detecting and measuring methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

The Centre for Smart Emissions Sensing Technologies (SENST) is being launched with $400,000 in funding from the federal government through Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The centre’s goal is to take a lead on meeting the Alberta government’s pledge for a 45 per cent reduction of harmful methane emissions from its oil and gas sector by 2025.

“One of the challenges we face in achieving reductions from the oil and gas sector is that we don’t always know where all the emissions are coming from or how much gas is leaking into the atmosphere,” SENST head researcher Chris Hugenholtz said in a statement.

“To better detect these hidden emissions, we need to develop new technology and new measurement systems that will help find them faster and cost effectively, and allow us to quantify emission rates. This will inform decisions about reducing emissions.”

Among SENST’s goals will be the creation of smart methane sensing systems with embedded intelligence, which fuse multi-sensory data with analytics to better find and quantify methane emissions. A primary focus will be developing next generation scalable sensing technology capable of addressing the geographic scale of methane emissions from Western Canada’s massive oil and gas network. This will include ground-based networks of fixed sensors and mobile sensing systems like vehicles, drones, aircraft, and satellites.

Another focus area will be advancing sensing using robotic drones. These drones, embedded with artificial intelligence, will essentially act as “sniffer dogs,” said Hugenholtz, finding hidden emission sources with minimal human input.

“There’s no silver bullet technology that’s going to solve all the emissions problems. It’s going to take a lot of dedicated research and testing to define the operational niches of different technologies so that we can prescribe the right tools for the job. SENST is here to support and accelerate this process.”