Gas Industry Eyes Next Giant Leap for Methane Monitoring

Several US natural gas companies are shooting for the stars — literally — to uncover technologies that will take their methane monitoring efforts forward by leaps and bounds. Their focus: satellite technology, which they say will lead to greater transparency on how much their assets emit.

EQT CEO Toby Rice told Energy Intelligence on the sidelines of the recent CERAWeek by S&P Global that his company — the largest US gas producer — was evaluating about six “satellite-as-a-service” providers, and EQT General Counsel Will Jordan said the Appalachian Methane Initiative (AMI) would decide this year whether to outsource or develop satellite technology internally. The AMI, made up of EQT, Chesapeake and Equitrans Midstream, was formed earlier this year to undertake basin-wide monitoring, consisting of both aerial and satellite surveys.

Satellite technology has improved in recent years as non-governmental organizations and nonprofits have taken the lead on using them for methane detection. Some satellites are global mappers that can track emissions over large areas, while others are point-source detectors that can measure small emissions events. However, the Environmental Defense Fund and others are aiming to bridge the gap with the ability to detect small sources of methane emissions over wide areas.

Gas producers and transporters are generally trying to get a hold on their actual emissions figures amid calls from the market for greater transparency and lower-carbon fuels, as well as a patchwork of proposed state and federal regulations. But Appalachian operators such as EQT and Chesapeake are hopeful the data can also influence policymakers and the public and potentially clear the way for approval of needed pipeline capacity in the region.

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