EDF virtual reality technology targets methane leaks with digitally-simulated wellsite

Shell methane detectors. Image: Shell

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has released a new “find and fix” virtual reality (VR) experience that will debut at the World Gas Conference in Washington, D.C. next week.

The Methane CH4llenge simulation, which was informed by peer-reviewed science and developed in collaboration with oil and gas experts, takes users into a digitally-simulated wellsite to show the ease and efficiency of controlling key sources of methane emissions, an increasingly important challenge for the oil and gas industry.

Working with FLIR Systems, Inc., SENSIT Technologies and Rebellion Photonics, EDF experts spent more than 1,000 hours designing and developing the simulated wellsite, and conducting extensive fieldwork to ensure accurate depictions of methane plumes.

“A Qatari oil and gas facility might be completely different than an American facility, but methane challenges are the same across all geographies,” said Craig R. O’Neill, business development manager for FLIR Systems. “Our optical gas imagers are utilized worldwide because they give industry a sixth sense to see otherwise invisible gas leaks. Technology highlighted in the Methane CH4llenge empowers industry to protect the environment, meet regulatory compliance standards, improve worker safety, and capture potentially lost profits.”

Methane CH4llenge users will be equipped with knowledge and technology widely available to industry today, including FLIR’s infrared cameras. With guidance from the EDF bot “Bella” they will have the opportunity to find and fix multiple methane leaks, affording them the unique experience to help industry avoid harmful methane emissions.

“Methane detection and quantification instruments are available today to help the oil and gas industry cost-effectively reduce emissions. Virtual reality simulations like this one allow everyone to experience our technology first hand and see for themselves that solutions like ours are easy to use and ready for global deployment now,” said Scott Kleppe, president and CEO at SENSIT Technologies.

“Innovation in methane detection technology is instrumental to solving the challenge on a global scale. Showcasing these solutions through tools like virtual reality can help accelerate and globalize the message that solutions like our continuous and automated gas imaging systems are ready today to help oil and gas companies operate safely, responsibly and efficiently,” added Robert Kester, chief executive officer at Rebellion Photonics.

Biggest benefit to the environment soonest

The Methane CH4llenge VR is the latest example of EDF’s approach in working with businesses to find practical solutions to urgent environmental problems, it said. EDF’s goal is to zero in on the opportunities that offer the biggest benefit to the environment soonest. Reducing methane emissions across the global oil and gas supply chain is one such opportunity.

Methane emissions from human activity are responsible for 25 per cent of the warming the planet is experiencing now. Worldwide, the oil and gas industry is one of the largest sources of these emissions. Yet, cutting oil and gas emissions is straightforward and inexpensive, EDF said.

“Reducing methane across the oil and gas industry is one of the fastest, most cost effective ways to slow the rate of warming today,” Mark Brownstein, EDF senior vice-president of Energy, said in a statement. “For industry, methane emissions are also a critical challenge – one that will only grow as policymakers and investors worldwide increasingly focus on methane’s outsized climate effects, and as competitive threats from cleaner alternatives intensify.”

EDF is also working to accelerate the development and deployment of mobile methane detection solutions through the Mobile Monitoring Challenge, a joint effort between EDF and Stanford University with technical guidance from ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, Shell and others. Previously, EDF worked with oil and gas companies, tech developers and entrepreneurs to advance the market for stationary, continuous methane monitors now being tested by Shell, Equinor (formerly Statoil), and Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

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