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As GIT's Hi-Flow Sampler continues to demonstrate opportunities for cost-effective leak quantification, another powerful leak-detection technology is emerging. This cutting edge technology has the ability to substantially reduce the time required to identify leaking components and assist in recovering lost product. 

GTI has teamed with Pacific Advanced Technology (PAT) to adapt the Image Multi-Spectral Sensing (IMSS) technology, born from U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) applications, toward a myriad of environmental remote sensing applications. IMSS represents the next generation of remote sensing technology, and could help the gas industry save tens of millions of dollars each year and provide compressor and gas processing facilities a cost-effective solution to managing their greenhouse gas emissions.

The GTI/PAT project team is working on the development of a small, durable, light weight, hand held imaging spectrometer with an imbedded image and data processor for real-time processing of spectral images. The initial prototype camera is intended for application to methane leak detection. However, the camera is capable of displaying an image of a plume or leak from the spectral region of interest corresponding to any individual chemical species from PAT's vast library of image data. The adaptability of the IMSS technology will be evaluated to determine the feasibility of application to detect an array of chemical species at various concentrations. The camera will be developed to allow an operator the ability to easily tune the camera to collect single or multiple chemical species data.

The IMSS technology is designed with all the dispersive and optical power in a single lens. The only moving part is a lead screw that drives the lens along the optical axis to scan the breadth of wavelengths in the infrared region. This technology has proven through the DoD program to be very robust and has been field tested for hundreds of hours in all kinds of weather condition without a single failure. Because the system uses only a single lens it can be made small and lightweight for man portable and airborne applications. The technology can monitor released gases from complex point sources or area sources, including tanks, pipes, valves and vents. The camera performance for speciation and emissions quantification from typical exhaust stacks and flares will also be assessed. A key advantage of IMSS is that it does not need an artificial light source, such as a laser. It relies on the unique infrared spectral signature from each compound(s) of interest.

Using a portable, hand-held imaging camera, this technology has demonstrated the capability to simultaneously detect multiple fugitive leaks from valves, flanges, open ended lines, sight glass, engine and compressor crankcase vents, process stacks etc. Similar to a conventional camcorder, the IMSS technology can be employed to screen components that were previously considered elevated or inaccessible. From preliminary field demonstration tests, IMSS was able to image methane leaks from buried underground piping highlighting the great promise for applications within the pipeline industry.

In a recent test conducted by PAT, IMSS far exceeded the goal of detecting and measuring methane leaks as small as 1 cubic foot per minute (cfm). In fact, it successfully imaged leaks as small as 0.01 cfm in ambient conditions, using either a building or the sky as background. Imaging leaks with a sky background is especially important, since a reflecting background is not required as in conventional laser based instruments.

In addition, the IMSS device successfully imaged a methane leak, which had migrated to the surface from a quarter-inch tube buried 12 inches underground. This indicates that IMSS may provide a low-cost tool for detecting leaks from the more than one million miles of underground pipeline in the natural gas production, distribution and transmission systems in the United States.

"IMSS technology holds great promise for significantly reducing fugitive losses and greenhouse gas emissions. This technology will also prove valuable in a myriad of environmental applications, and this project is intended to develop the methane leak detection camera, while investigating its feasibility for applications to other emissions and source types", says Jeffrey A. Panek, GTI Principal Project Manager, Air Quality.

"The gas industry stands to gain significant savings through lower labor cost and recovered product. In addition, the imaging instrument could help identify leaks and reduce emissions in other industries, such as petrochemicals and power generation."

GTI is now working with PAT on steps toward commercializing the technology.

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