Directly attributing methane emissions to point source locations using the next generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-NG)
Abstract:Imaging spectrometers like the next generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-NG) are well suited for identifying methane point sources by covering large regions with the high spatial resolution necessary to resolve emissions. A controlled release experiment at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC) showed detectable methane plumes at multiple flux rates and flight altitudes. Images of plumes agreed with wind direction measured at ground stations and were consistently present for fluxes as low as 0.09 kt/year (14.16 cubic meters per hour; 500 standard cubic feet per hour, scfh).
In some cases plumes were detected as low as 0.02 kt/year (3.40 cubic meters per hour; 120 scfh), indicating that AVIRIS-NG has the capability of detecting a number of fugitive methane source categories for natural gas fields. Following the RMOTC campaign, real time detection and geolocation of methane plumes has been implemented using an operator interface that overlays plumes on a true color image acquired by AVIRIS-NG. This has facilitated surveys over existing oil and gas fields to identify and attribute methane emissions to individual point source locations, including well pads known to use hydraulic fracturing and natural gas pipelines.
An imaging spectrometer built exclusively for detection, quantification, and attribution of methane plumes would have improved sensitivity compared to AVIRIS-NG. The Airborne Methane Plume Spectrometer (AMPS) instrument concept is mature, ready for development, and would provide a spectral resolution of 1 nm and a detection threshold of approximately 0.28 cubic meters per hour (10 scfh). By offering the potential to identify point source locations, airborne imaging spectrometers could have particular utility for resolving the large uncertainties associated with anthropogenic emissions, including industrial point source emissions and fugitive methane from the oil and gas industry.
Fig.1: True color image subset with superimposed methane plume. Google Earth imagery with finer spatial resolution is also included from June 2014 (red box), indicating likely methane source are tanks (likely either produced water storage tanks or condensate tanks). According to online databases, this well pad uses hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction.