SwRI developing smart technology to detect methane leaks
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Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is working on the creation of a new smart-system using algorithms to detect methane leaks. SciTech Now visits the SwRI lab where a team is combining machine learning with passive optical sensing, aiding in detecting small methane emissions.

SwRI received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to partner with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to create the new smart system. The goal of the Institute’s technology, known as the Smart Leak Detection technology (SLED/M), is to help the federal government reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations which has become a top priority in recent history. Methane absorbs heat more effectively than carbon dioxide which makes it more threatening to the environment.


While there are currently other methane leak detection systems in place, full inspection personnel is needed around the clock for the technology to be effective, since the technology cannot operate on its own. Even then, human detection is not accurate at times. In the past it has led the federal government to send teams and equipment to inspect small leaks, only to find a false detection which means spending unnecessary resources and expenses.

”There are systems that can detect large methane leaks, but it is challenging to effectively detect and mitigate small leaks unless you have inspection personnel with sensor devices stationed 24/7 across pipelines and other energy infrastructure,” said Maria Araujo, Manager of Research and Development.  “Our goal is to automate the process of finding small leaks in real-time.”

Watch this episode of SciTech Now airing Friday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. on KLRN.