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Detection Limits of Optical Gas Imaging for Natural Gas Leak Detection in Realistic Controlled Conditions

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posted on 26.08.2020, 20:45 by Daniel Zimmerle, Timothy Vaughn, Clay Bell, Kristine Bennett, Parik Deshmukh, Eben Thoma
Optical gas imaging (OGI) is a commonly utilized leak detection method in the upstream and midstream sectors of the U.S. natural gas industry. This study characterized the detection efficacy of OGI surveyors, using their own cameras and protocols, with controlled releases in an 8-acre outdoor facility that closely resembles upstream natural gas field operations. Professional surveyors from 16 oil and gas companies and 8 regulatory agencies participated, completing 488 tests over a 10 month period. Detection rates were significantly lower than prior studies focused on camera performance. The leak size required to achieve a 90% probability-of-detection in this study is an order-of-magnitude larger than prior studies. Study results indicate that OGI survey experience significantly impacts leak detection rate: Surveyors from operators/contractors who had surveyed more than 551 sites prior to testing detected 1.7 (1.5–1.8) times more leaks than surveyors who had completed fewer surveys. Highly experienced surveyors adjust their survey speed, examine components from multiple viewpoints, and make other adjustments that improve their leak detection rate, indicating that modifications of survey protocols and targeted training could improve leak detection rates overall.