Neptune Energy has completed a “first-of-its-kind” study using both rotary and fixed wing drones which could help cut methane emissions across the North Sea.
The collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) used drones with methane-sensing equipment on the Neptune Cygnus platform in the Southern North Sea.
A key objective was to establish an accurate, scientific benchmark for measuring total methane emissions within an offshore environment at a facility level.
Findings will be published in a scientific peer-reviewed study in 2022, with the aim of helping establish best-practice approaches across the wider industry.
Similar methane-detecting studies have been carried out elsewhere, such as by BP at the Clair field west of Shetland, but this is believed to be the first to use both types of drones for a “top-down” study of platform emissions.
It comes amid the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, where tackling methane emissions is hot on the agenda.
Neptune Energy’s vice president of operations Europe, Pete Jones, said: “The abatement of methane emissions will be crucial in meeting the Paris Agreement goals and, given the short lifespan of methane emissions, we know that taking meaningful action today can bring positive results in as little as nine years.
“Neptune already has one of the lowest methane intensities in the sector, at 0.01%, compared with the industry average of 0.23%, and has set a target of net zero methane emissions by 2030.
“Proactive action by the UK offshore industry including the reduction of flaring and venting contributed towards a 11% fall in upstream GHG emissions between 2018 and 2020. By using advanced, existing technologies and novel approaches such as those employed in this latest study, the UK sector can continue to lead the way in driving down methane emissions from oil and gas operations.”
EDF scientists carried out the five-day study, which involved a team from UK-based crew from Texo DSI operating a rotary drone provided by Scientific Aviation.
In parallel, an unmanned SeekOps fixed-wing drone carrying methane measuring tech was flown from Norfolk to the Cygnus platform by FlyLogix.
The drone circled the facility above the platform and gradually wound down just below sea-level, recording the total volume of emissions.
Covering a total of 313miles, the operation was believed to be one of the longest of its kind to be carried out in the UK North Sea.
Flylogix executive chairman Charles Tavner said: “The study demonstrates how the best of new technology can be harnessed and deployed to tackle the challenge of reducing methane emissions.
“Using a long-range, fixed wing unmanned system mobilised from the shore provides accurate measurement and quantification
and reduces the cost, risks and environmental impacts associated with taking people offshore.”