AGCS Sensor for Gas Leak Detection

EPA Contract Number: 68D02058
Title: AGCS Sensor for Gas Leak Detection
Investigators: Nelson, Loren D.
Small Business: OPHIR Corporation
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: June 1, 2002 through June 1, 2004
Project Amount: $224,999
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2002) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , SBIR - Monitoring , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


OPHIR Corporation's (OPHIR) Phase I project was very successful. All tasks identified in the Phase I proposal were met and exceeded. The results of Phase I modeling and trade studies indicate that OPHIR's proposed technology exceeds expectations for sensitivity and detection range. Field test data have demonstrated that OPHIR's technology—(a sensor that uses a new Active Gas Correlation Spectrometer) (AGCS)—can achieve a sensitivity of 50 ppb for methane, and 33 ppb for ethane. This technology holds great promise for meeting the needs of several applications within the natural gas industry.

This project is focused on developing a cost-effective remote sensing system to detect methane and ethane (the two primary constituents of natural gas). Ethane is an excellent indicator of natural gas because it is scarce within the natural environment and not associated with other common combustible gases. Consequently, this system will provide a significant cost savings to the natural gas industry by reducing the time and effort required to find natural gas leaks and eliminating efforts to investigate false alarms. This technology will provide the essential detector currently needed to reduce the atmospheric emission of methane, a significant greenhouse gas.

The Phase II effort provides the next logical step toward developing this technology for introduction into the marketplace. During Phase II, OPHIR will perform several test programs with the prototype hardware. This includes supporting the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) CO2 Sequestration Project, performing airborne flight testing, performing a leak detection survey with a local gas utility company, and completing an extensive field test for a private corporation. OPHIR already has received significant financial commitments from private industry and DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory to support this Phase II effort. These commitments exceed $140,000. OPHIR has gained the support of Xcel Energy, which will be providing engineering and test evaluation support.

Through the supporting efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/DOE Commercialization Assistance Program and Dawnbreaker Inc., OPHIR has developed an extensive business plan to bring this technology to the marketplace. This plan focuses on optical remote sensing of natural gas pipelines, distribution and production facilities, and mains and service lines using airborne and vehicle-mounted systems. OPHIR is seeking equity financing to accomplish this business plan.

The market for this new technology is significant. The natural gas industry is a $130 billion per year industry serving 60 million U.S. customers, including 55 million residential customers. Federal and local laws mandate routine leak surveys. Currently, the industry expends $50 million annually to comply with U.S. Department of Transportation pipeline inspection regulations. The natural gas industry will readily adopt new leak-detection sensors that offer a significant operational cost savings, reduce false alarms, and improve leak detection.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 7 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, natural gas, gas emissions, global climate, remote sensing, infrastructure, pollution prevention, engineering, chemistry, EPA, U.S. Department of Energy, methane, ethane, Active Gas Correlation Spectrometer, Scientific Discipline

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report