Company finding Permian Basin methane leaks

With the hundreds of natural gas rigs now located in the Permian Basin, it can be hard to find every leak in the oilfield — which is why one company is now doing a full aerial scan in an attempt to do so.
Kairos Aerospace is a California-based company that has developed a patented technology that, when flown over an area, can scan that area and provide data imaging to show where methane emissions are located, which means where a company’s natural gas is leaking where it shouldn’t be.
“It’s a very large system. You’re talking about thousands and thousands of wells spread out across tens of thousands of acres,” Kairos Aerospace Co-Founder and CEO Steve Deiker said. “So they’re just all over the place and keeping atop of these things is pretty tough, and out in the oilfield you can’t even smell [methane].”
When methane is leaking, it’s invisible, so a company and those working in the oilfield wouldn’t be able to notice it. Deiker said it’s easy for these companies to have leaks, but only about 3 percent of leaks are considered significant. The alternative to Kairos’ method would be for companies to go from well to well with handheld equipment to find leaks.
“To go hunting with handheld equipment is extremely expensive,” Deiker said. “We fly over the fields quickly and we find the largest leaks and they send their ground crew instead of sending them out to every one of them, most of which don’t have problems.”
While methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can be damaging to the climate when it’s leaking into the atmosphere, it isn’t primarily for any environmental or humanitarian purpose that these companies would want to find these leaks. Deiker said it’s about the financial recovery of the product, as the leaking of this gas could cost these companies money.
“If you go after the large leaks, they represented tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue,” Deiker said. “A lot of the companies have stated goals of reduction in emissions. The argument that we generally make is we’re going to save you money.”
Kairos is currently doing a full scan of the Permian Basin, both in Texas and New Mexico, with their technology to provide a full model of the area and where the leaks are located. From that, they will sell the data to any companies interested in buying.
This is the first full scan of the Permian Basin the company has done since they started working with customers three years ago, and they also work in states like Pennsylvania and Arkansas and will be expanding to the Middle East and northern Africa, as well.
“One of the big reasons we’re able to do this is that we have a cloud-processing pipeline that lets us chew through the data rapidly and lets us produce a map of methane plume,” Deiker said. “At the end of that, it spits out the 10 or so largest leaks in the entire area. No one’s ever scanned for these kinds of leaks over this kind of size before.”
Since this is the first scan, Deiker said he didn’t have any information as to how much natural gas emissions have grown over the past number of years due to the oil boom, if they have, but said the company intends to eventually do these scans quarterly.