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Detection methods study

Under working group 5 of the Roundtable for Oil and Gas, research was proposed to develop leading practice GHG detection methods. Discussions with a few key company members of the Roundtable and APPEA have revealed a potential opportunity to link this research to efforts in other jurisdictions. These options are being considered to avoid overlaps in effort.

As cited in the Roadmap for Unconventional Gas (pp 11, Executive Summary, Key Findings, Item 1), the International Energy Agency’s golden rules for the golden age of gas includes the aspiration to “eliminate venting”. Industry and regulators should be working towards this aspiration.

Successful development of reliable, cost-effective methods and technologies to confirm the efficacy of properly constructed petroleum wells and transport infrastructure to prevent fugitive emissions should bolster public trust in the environmental sustainability of petroleum (including unconventional gas) development, production and transport.

Discussions with University College London’s (UCL’s) Adelaide Campus executives and UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) and the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and Sprigg Geobiology Centre (SGC) people resulted in a proposal to develop cost-effective remote sensing and ground truth technologies to detect fugitive GHG emissions.

This entails an airborne platform to demonstrate UCL’s MSSL hyperspectral instruments capability to detect fugitive methane emissions, IPAS laser technologies and SGB spectrometry to provide ground truth in an area with minimum ‘noise’ and prevalent existing and future oil and gas operations e.g. the Cooper Basin. If demonstrated to be cost effective – the MSSL technology could be deployed in either a station keeping balloon or spacecraft.

A précis of this research components are linked below:

Presentations on GHG emissions

On 22 November 2013, guest speaker at the Roundtable Matt Harrison, international expert in GHG emissions, gave a presentation on current leading practice research into GHG monitoring in upstream petroleum operations in the USA. Further to this CSIRO’s Stuart Day presented on Fugitive Methane Emissions from Coal Seam Gas Production.

CSIRO study on methane emissions from well completion activities

On 1 June 2017, the CSIRO released research results on their study of methane emissions from coal seam gas well completion activities. The federal Department of the Environment and Energy provided funding to CSIRO Energy to undertake a study to determine methane emissions from actual well completions. Two field campaigns were undertaken between September 2015 and March 2016 when methane emissions were measured at 9 well completions and one well workover at two CSG company gas fields in the Surat Basin in Queensland. The CSIRO reported that the results of this study were used to update the methods in the National Greenhouse Accounts for Australia’s 2017 submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and under the Kyoto Protocol.

The CSIRO concluded that while these measurements represent initial data specific to Australian CSG drilling operations, the sample size is very small and hence the results may not be representative of the industry overall. Accordingly, it is important to view the results of this study in this context. Nonetheless, the completion procedures were similar across the fields examined and the results of the measurements consistently showed that emissions from these completions were relatively minor especially when wells remain filled with liquid during the operation. However, we have only measured emissions from the completion itself; other well construction processes including drilling and hydraulic fracturing have not been examined here.

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