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Wyoming gas company, university researchers to test emissions detection tech

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Jonah Field

An Ensign drilling rig contracted by Jonah Energy operates at a drilling site in September 2014 near Pinedale. A Wyoming gas company will team with university researchers to test emissions detection technology. 

Wyoming natural gas producer PureWest announced Thursday that it will work with researchers from Colorado State University to study emissions detection technology, becoming the first company to join this stage of the research.

Natural gas is mostly made up of methane, a greenhouse gas with many times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Industry knows some methane leakage happens during extraction and transport, but experts aren’t sure exactly how much escapes, making it hard to measure how much pollution comes from drilling.

“One of the things that (monitoring) technology provides us is a way to demonstrate the actual emissions that are coming from our locations, and not rely on calculations and broad estimates that are currently being used,” said Jason Oates, PureWest’s senior director of environmental, social and governance. PureWest was previously known as UP Energy and Ultra, and changed its name after acquiring Pinedale Energy Partners a year ago.

The Colorado State University Energy Institute’s Advancing Development of Emissions Detection program is intended to evaluate existing leak identification practices and improve regulatory standards, which don’t currently include monitoring.

“We aim to understand how these solutions can improve efficiencies in emissions measurement and reporting to aid the industry in reducing its footprint,” Clay Bell, a research scientist at CSU, said in a statement.

The initiative gets its funding from a U.S. Department of Energy grant, the American Petroleum Institute and several industry partners. PureWest will also pay for some of the work at its Pinedale research site.

“We see the value in conducting stationary methane monitoring at all of our locations,” said Kelly Bott, a senior vice president for PureWest.

The company joined the research as part of ongoing internal leak detection efforts. It realized its monitoring needs varied across thousands of well sites, Bott said, and “really wanted to take an opportunity to explore the different monitoring technologies and figure out how to design a program that would be the right fit for the different locations that we have out in the field.”

PureWest plans to install devices intended to continuously monitor emissions from seven different companies, and operate them for a two-month research period this summer.

The technologies have been shown to work under optimal conditions. Now the CSU team wants to find out how they perform in the field, Oates said.

“That’s what we’re doing — we’re playing that role of showing the real-world benefits and the real-world application of these monitors,” Oates said, “given the weather, the size of the pad, the way the pads are designed. All the different attributes that you can test in a field environment, that you can’t test in a laboratory or controlled environment.”

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