ARPA-E's Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions (MONITOR) program are developing innovative technologies to cost-effectively and accurately locate and measure methane emissions associated with natural gas production.

Our solution for the rapid, cost-effective detection of natural gas leaks on well platforms involves a novel gas detection sensor and leak location software.

A Miniature Mass Spectrometer

The gas detector is a Coded Aperture Miniature Mass Spectrometer for Environmental Sensing (CAMMS-ES) designed with spatially coded apetures to provide exceptional sensitivity and specificity for the detection of natural gas and related volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Mass spectrometry is an ideal sensing modality for natural gas leak detection and analysis. The ability to separate components of a sample by mass enables characterization of the ratios of different hydrocarbons and gases (such as methane, butane, ethane, propane, hydrogen sulfide, and benzene) in a sample.

Mass spectrometry is also is the standard method for characterizing isotopic composition of a sample for thermogenic/biogenic differentiation – the key to eliminating false positives from background methane concentrations. Mass spectrometers, although very sensitive, have previously only had limited use outside the laboratory due to their large size, weight and cost.

CAMMS-ES mini prototype
Photo of our latest miniature prototype

Rapid Detection and Characterization

This unique sensor can also determine if the natural gas is from the well of interest or nearby unrelated sources (e.g., farm stock or industrial contamination).

Our solution is referred to as CAMMS for Environmental Sensing (CAMMS-ES). The CAMMS-ES provides a disruptive technology for improving the size, weight, power, cost, and performance of natural gas leak detection solutions by rapidly detecting and characterizing gas leaks.

Fulfilling Important Missions

It directly addresses the two basic mission areas for the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Enhancing the economic security of the United States through reductions of energy imports and energy-related emissions and improvements in energy efficiency
  • Ensuring that the United States maintains a technological lead in advanced energy technologies.

The CAMMS-ES solution will contribute to reductions in energy-related emissions by detecting natural gas leaks on well platforms such that they can be rapidly located and repaired.

This in turn will improve energy efficiency and reduce dependence on imports by preserving our domestic supply of natural gas. The advanced technology required for our solution contributes to the second U.S. Department of Energy mission area.