National Physical Laboratory (NPL)

NPL’s remote sensing of methane capability enhanced.


Source: National Physical Laboratory (NPL)

Following the successful construction and launch of their latest enhanced Differential Absorption  Lidar (DIAL) system this summer, NPL has moved on to calibrate its new DIAL truck and to apply its capability to a key European project.

The DIAL (Differential Absorption Lidar) facility is a highly mobile truck-mounted, sophisticated laser-based system that provides rapid, accurate measurements and 3D mapping of airborne emissions. It is a completely self-contained mobile laboratory that can be shipped, or driven, to where it is needed.

NPL have conducted field trails with the new DIAL, comparing it directly to the well-proven existing truck, assuring its customers of the continuity in measurement accuracy.

The next task for NPL is to conduct measurements of atmospheric methane as part of its contribution to “Climate-KIC”. This is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership working to address the challenge of climate change, and has awarded €1.266 million to FuME (Fugitive Methane Emissions), a new project that will help to identify fugitive methane emissions. Fugitive methane emissions are of great importance to climate change and government and industry's response to it, due to its high global warming impact of 34 and 86 times that of CO2 over 100 and 20 years, respectively. While these emissions represent low hanging fruit for reductions, capturing fugitive methane emissions can directly produce saleable gas. NPL is leading a European consortium to develop and test new methane measurement instruments for shale gas extraction, municipal waste water treatment plants and gas distribution. Work is in hand to measure fugitive methane emissions at landfill sites and water treatment plants.

NPL’s DIAL system is uniquely placed can faithfully detect and map methane emissions in real-time under virtually any weather conditions. Previous applications on DIAL have included:

  • Tank Farms & Terminals. Remote Emissions surveys of methane emissions at LNG terminals and tank farms. NPL's mobile DIAL facility can remotely measure pollutants in the air from the way visible, UV and IR laser pulses interact with gases in the air. NPL used DIAL to show that, whereas emissions from tanks of petroleum products were close to what was predicted by AP-42 (the industry standard method of estimating emissions), VOC emissions from crude oil storage tanks were several times greater than AP-42 predicted at the time of measurement.
  • Refineries & Petro-Chemical Complexes. A problem in reducing air pollution from release of volatile organic carbons (VOCs) by petroleum refineries and crude oil stores is the difficulty of measuring the concentration of these gases at the point of release. A pioneering study with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) enabled development of a new approach to air quality regulation within the oil and gas sector.
  • Landfill Gas Surveys. The sophisticated DIAL offering provides rapid, accurate measurements of airborne atmospheric pollutants at a range up to 1km. DIAL is particularly useful for measurements of emissions from landfill sites. The system is a completely self-contained mobile laboratory monitoring meteorological parameters and gas concentrations. Taken together, DIAL provides a 3D visual map showing the location and concentration of landfill methane emissions and the mass emission rate for the methane loss to atmosphere. In many studies DIAL has been shown to be the most comprehensive and cost effective approach to monitoring emissions from landfills (DEFRA report: Measurements of Methane Emissions and Surface Methane Oxidation at Landfills s WR1125; 2012)

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