SME Climate Hub
Project Vision
July 15, 2020

QLM CEO Murray Reed presents a vision of the future for the SPLICE efforts beyond the project bringing together the different areas of expertise in working towards a single goal.

Gas Leak Detection inspections today are expensive and time consuming, requiring skilled operators to painstakingly cover every part of a facility, and then follow up with quantification equipment on the leaks identified by the initial investigation. Worse than this, however, they also only produce a snapshot in time of the facility they are investigating. Leaks are captured as they are occurring at the time of the survey. If an otherwise leaking component happens not to leak that day, or a previously good component is running leak-free for the last time, these can lead to false negatives and underreporting of methane emissions, which will be missed until the next LDAR operation in three-, six-, or even twelve months’ time. There has to be a better solution for LDAR operations than this.

What is required is a continuous, preferably autonomous, monitoring solution. Sites would be monitored twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, by automated systems that can detect, localise, quantify and track the evolution of methane leaks and immediately report them to plant operators. Leaks would be identified straight away, whenever they occur, without the need to wait for the next scheduled survey. This would allow for rational decisions to be made about which leaks to prioritise, and on which schedule. Health and safety on-plant is improved, product loss is reduced, more accurate methane budgets are reported to regulators, and the environment benefits as a result.

This is the future that QLM’s quantum gas sensing camera can offer to oil and gas operators. A simple, robust platform that can scan for methane (and other greenhouse gas) emissions on a continuous basis, and reports its findings to a site safety system on a near real-time basis. Walkaround studies need no longer be carried out site wide, and can be directed by the findings of the monitoring system to repair leaks as and when they occur. Vents and planned emissions can be tracked to quantify the amount of methane lost per release, allowing for more efficient scheduling.

The SPLICE project is the first step toward this vision, developing an industrial gas imager that can measure accurately and exactly what is there, but it is not the whole story. In future, software should not only be able to indicate when methane has been discovered, but it should be able to reason within the scope of the methane leak patterns it has learned at the site. A control system that opens vents or schedules flares when necessary can send a signal to the system and direct its attention to the release event about to occur. The software can review multiple leak events it has found, rationalise them against what has been seen before, and identify new or increasing leaks as a priority over those already known. With machine learning algorithms improving all of the time, this is not a vision of the far future. The software processing capability is already there, and needs only to be directed to continuously scan a plant to begin the learning process.

QLM has plans beyond SPLICE to develop a truly intelligent gas-monitoring system, but that starts with SPLICE, the two-year development of a highly sensitive, long range,and robust gas imager that can locate and quantify gas emissions anywhere it can sees. Between QLM, Bay Photonics, and STL Tech, who are developing our quantum gas imager instrument and user interface, NPL, who will be validating the metrology, and BP, Ametek, and National Grid, who will provide test sites for field trials, and the host of other consortium members making vital contributions to the camera development, the SPLICE project will be the proving ground that will generate, test and launch the power of the quantum gas sensor into the gas industry. This will be a triumphant success story in and of itself, but will just be the start of the journey to a fully intelligent and autonomous system, rather than the final destination.

And in other news…