Detecting natural gas leaks from the worlds nearly 5 million kilometers of underground pipelines is a difficult and costly problem. Existing technologies are limited to ground deployment and have a number of limitations such as slow response, false leak readings and high costs. Various remote sensing solutions have been proposed in the past and a few are currently being developed. This paper starts by describing the remote sensing concept, how it compares with other ground based measurement techniques and then will focus on a new technology called realSens. This field proven airborne instrument is a passive Gas Filter Correlation Radiometer that is tuned to measure ethane and methane in the 3.3 microns near-infrared band. Combined with a suite of other complementary remote sensing instruments on the same flight platform, the captured data is processed and then combined into contextualized information. This proprietary process allows Synodon to provide its clients with information about their leaks and emissions, pipeline ROW activity and changes.
Flown at a typical altitude of 300 meters, the realSensTM instrument captures the reflected solar radiation and measures the total gas volume in the column that extends from the aircraft to the ground. The instrument does not rely on the gas rising to the level of the aircraft, as it can “see” gas at ground level. With a ground resolution of 2 meters and a swath width of 64 meters, realSens™ is capable of detecting all leaks and emissions within the vicinity of the area of interest irrespective of the gas migrating away from the site.
The paper concludes with a description of the service which Synodon is offering to the transmission and distribution pipeline operators using this realSensTM technology.