Recently there has been increased interest on the part of federal and state regulators to detect and quantify emissions of methane, an important greenhouse gas, from various parts of the oil and gas infrastructure including well pads and pipelines. Pressure and/or flow anomalies are typically used to detect leaks along natural gas pipelines, but are generally very insensitive and subject to false alarms. We have developed a system to detect and localize methane leaks along gas pipelines that is an order of magnitude more sensitive by combining tunable diode laser spectroscopy (TDLAS) with conventional sensor tube technology. This technique can potentially localize leaks along pipelines up to 100 km lengths with an accuracy of ±50 m or less. A sensor tube buried along the pipeline with a gas-permeable membrane collects leaking gas during a soak period. The leak plume within the tube is then carried to the nearest sensor node along the tube in a purge cycle. The time-to-detection is used to determine leak location. Multiple sensor nodes are situated along the pipeline to minimize the time to detection, and each node is composed of a short segment of hollow core fiber (HCF) into which leaking gas is transported quickly through a small pressure differential. The HCF sensing node is spliced to standard telecom solid core fiber which transports the laser light for spectroscopy to a remote interrogator. The interrogator is multiplexed across the sensor nodes to minimize equipment cost and complexity.
W. A. Challener, Matthias A. Kasten, Jason Karp, and Niloy Choudhury, "Hollow-core fiber sensing technique for pipeline leak detection," Proc. SPIE 10539, Photonic Instrumentation Engineering V, 105390P (Presented at SPIE OPTO: January 31, 2018; Published: 22 February 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2286459.
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