BP’s North Sea business has successfully executed a groundbreaking pilot project testing innovative ways of remotely monitoring methane emissions on its offshore assets.
The pilot, which combined highly advanced sensor technology originally designed by NASA for the Mars Curiosity Rover with a fixed-wing remote piloted air system (RPAS), or drone, broke the UK’s record for the longest commercial drone flight and demonstrates the feasibility of this unique approach to monitoring methane.
Record drone flight
The drone circled the Clair platform at a radius of 550 metres for 90 minutes, travelling for a total of more than 185 km, significantly beating the previous record of 100 km. The pre-programmed drone, once airborne, managed itself autonomously. Throughout the flight, the RPAS live-streamed valuable data collected by the methane sensor.
Ariel Flores, North Sea regional president, said: “Improving our knowledge, understanding and performance by testing new technologies and working closely with suppliers is central to the North Sea’s carbon reduction plan, which aims to limit greenhouse emissions in our North Sea business. This pilot project represents a significant step forward in our ability to do that.”
Following the successful results, the specialist drone will be deployed to all of BP’s North Sea assets in 2020, including ETAP and Glen Lyon.
Project manager, Joe Godwin, Clair field environmental lead, said: “We wanted to test a method for collecting large amounts of data on our emissions over long periods of time, without having to send people or equipment offshore. The solution would also have to deal with the turbulent atmospheric conditions that we typically experience offshore in the North Sea.
“Ultimately, we identified the RPAS drone solution provided by UK supplier FlyLogix combined with the ultra precise sensor technology by SeekOps, as a good fit with our requirements. We set up a test project to monitor methane emissions from our Clair Phase 1 platform, West of Shetland.”
The drone itself was tracked and remotely controlled by a team of three qualified pilots using satellite communications and radio link from the remote Island of Papa Stour – the team never had to leave their base onshore.”
Luca Corradi, the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) innovation network director, added: “Eliminating methane emissions is a key focus area in order to decarbonise offshore oil and gas operations. As the OGTC launches its new Net Zero Solution Centre, this is an example of the game-changing technology we need to see more of in order to precisely detect and quantify methane emissions, then contain and eliminate them.”