Project Details

  • Client: Nine project partners
  • Category: Methane emissions
  • Date: November 2021
  • 12,500 kilometers of safe unmanned flight in some of the world’s harshest conditions and sensitive environmental territories
  • 2.5 million realtime methane concentration readings to accurately inform how to drive down emissions and meet Net Zero targets faster
  • Collaborating and developing a precision, top-down measurement system that can deliver a full, detailed picture of emissions and sources

Nine project partners including six major energy companies, drones, space tech and a meeting of human minds are fast-tracking a global blueprint for how the oil and gas industry can meet the COP 26 Global Methane Pledge.

We discuss with those involved just how 12,500 kilometres of unmanned flight, leading to 2.5 million methane concentration readings, were made possible.

Meeting the Global Methane Pledge

The Global Methane Pledge – announced in November 2021 – aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% compared to 2020 levels and has attracted more than 100 countries to sign up.

With methane emissions notoriously difficult to measure, a partnership between Flylogix, SeekOps and the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC), working with six major energy industry clients – bp, Shell, Equinor, TotalEnergies, TAQA, Harbour Energy is helping to accurately, safely and sustainably measure methane emissions from offshore assets.

With the testing phase successfully completed the project partners explain how this can help to meet targets agreed at COP 26.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

Chris Adams of Flylogix says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. To effectively manage and reduce emissions, you need a detailed and reliable picture of what is happening.”

Generally, methane emissions from sources such as fugitives, combustion and flaring have been measured by ‘bottom-up’ calculations and estimations. Flylogix with SeekOps have now established a means to measure from the ‘top down’ for a more precise picture of total emissions and sources.

Rebecca Allison, Head of Emissions Reduction at NZTC, comments: ““When we were originally approached for funding, our interest was more in the drone side of the technology, because at that point the emphasis wasn’t on methane monitoring. But as the energy sector recognised what had to be done to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement, the project became even more important, in that it could offer a real solution to methane monitoring.”

“We’ve talked a lot in the past about collaboration, and it’s been difficult to do that. But this has been a project where a lot of people have come together. The feedback from the community of like-minded people is what’s been exciting about the project.”

Flylogix is a game changer in how we measure our methane emissions and how we use that data to tackle them

David HayesManaging Partner of bp Ventures

Serendipity plays its part…

“We’ve been in conversation with a number of energy companies since around 2018,” says Chris Adams of Flylogix, “discussing ways in which our UAV solutions might be of value to them. But the impetus for this particular application came from a fantastic insight from Dan Touzel at bp who saw the potential opportunity in connecting us with SeekOps, a Texas-based sensor technology business. It’s pretty unlikely they would have found us, or we would have found them otherwise.”

“SeekOps’ ability to quantify the invisible, and our use of unmanned systems to change the paradigm on collecting data in remote environments  has proved to be a powerful combination,” says Chris Adams.

Brendan Smith, COO of SeekOps, adds: “When you look at the frameworks like OGMP 2.0, operators will need to report not just their own bottom-up numbers, but also the top-down numbers that Flylogix and SeekOps can provide, for comparison and verification. So they need an affordable, workable way of doing that, which won’t interrupt their day-to-day operations, and we’ve shown we can fulfil that need.”

“After the success of the first campaign with bp in 2019 we were able to convince five more operators, not just to fly round their platforms, but more importantly to put all of the data into a single pool. That’s a pretty big feat in oil and gas when most operators keep this sort of information close to their chest. But if the world is going to reach Net Zero it has to start with the operators, and we do get that real sense of urgency from the operators we are working and partnering with.”

The project takes off

Measuring methane emissions from offshore assets has, until now, been difficult, expensive, unreliable and – in itself – a source of high carbon emissions, depending as it often does on manned vehicle flights.

The advent of (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) UAVs opened up the possibility of measuring methane emissions with minimal disruption to the asset and with minimal personnel, at offshore facilities.

“Measurement has, until now, involved a great deal of unverifiable data,” says Chris Adams of Flylogix. “And so part of our project has been to run a fully-controlled experiment in which we released a small, but known emission into the air. Using our UAV, the SeekOps sensor and measurement software we compared known data with measured data. With a focus on ensuring the measurement system meets the standards demanded by the OGMP2.0 this opportunity to define measurement uncertainty using empirical data was another huge step forward.”

“With the support of the Net Zero Technology Centre and the active collaboration of bp, Shell, Equinor, Total Energies, Harbour Energy and TAQA, we’ve been able to innovate at real pace and lay the groundwork for the energy sector to work towards reduced methane emissions,” says Chris Adams.

Industry partners reflect on the project

Peter Evans, Environmental Engineering Lead, bp, comments: “The actions that drive real reductions in methane emissions can only exist if everyone within the businesses knows that what they’re doing does actually make a difference. Again, you can only know this if you measure it and trust the results. We’ve formed a very effective working relationship with Flylogix and SeekOps, and it’s good to see the mutually beneficial relationship that has emerged from everyone working together.”

Kris Kydd, Robotics Lead, TotalEnergies, comments: “I’ve been involved with robotics at TotalEnergies for eight years, and I’ve never seen a project that has gone quite so quickly from R&D into generating operational value. The openness and the transparency of the group, with everyone sharing lessons learned, has been really important for the success of the project.”

Christophe Le Boucher, senior engineer, methane emission measurement, Shell project lead and liaison with Flylogix and SeekOps, comments: “The Flylogix and SeekOps project is linked to Shell’s methane target announced in 2018 to maintain methane emission intensity below 0.2% for all assets in Upstream and Integrated Gas that are operated by Shell. In this context we also support the ‘Methane Guiding Principles’ – including principle 3, ‘to improve accuracy of methane emissions data’ and principle 5, to ‘increase transparency’ and have also signed up to the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) 2.0 reporting framework. We believe that the Flylogix and SeekOps technology can contribute to meeting the requirements put forward in these global initiatives for clear and transparent reporting on emissions.”

James Lawson, Senior Energy Transition Adviser, Harbour Energy, comments: “Every oil and gas company is thinking about methane emissions and how best to understand and reduce them. Methane, by its very nature, is a lot more difficult to understand than CO2. You need more out-of-the-box thinking around it. Flylogix and SeekOps came on board as partners offering members of the NZTC project a step forward in terms of understanding our methane emissions. The project was set up as a collaboration between peers, which was important to us. It was also well-managed and curated and everyone was open and transparent.”

Robert Jones, Senior Environmental Advisor, TAQA UK, comments: “For us this project was around measuring emissions and helping our net zero alignment. Previously, we had to depend on estimates. So, one of our objectives was to have accurately measured emissions data, which provides the start point for setting an improvement plan or target. As well as the potential to provide that robust data, the Flylogix and SeekOps technology has other benefits, such as reduced disruption to operations, less mobilization of personnel and a reduced carbon footprint compared to helicopter operations.”