January 13, 2022
SACRAMENTO – Under its renewed mandate to protect public health and the environment, CalGEM is now using drone flights to monitor fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas facilities.
“Combating methane emissions in California is a key component to addressing climate change,” said State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk. “Drone methane monitoring via remote sensors, a new technology for CalGEM, not only helps the Division meet its responsibilities but allows for the identification of gas leak sources before they become significant environmental and safety issues.”
State law requires that CalGEM, part of Department of Conservation, ensure regulated oil and gas facilities are free from leaks; however, with methane being an odorless and colorless gas, it is nearly impossible to detect methane leaks during a visual site inspection. CalGEM now conducts weekly methane surveillance flights primarily around oil production facilities in the Los Angeles area. Flights are prioritized based on socio-economic and environmental conditions to ensure equitable environmental protections.
CalGEM already uses drones to aid in the inspection of large oil and gas facilities and several CalGEM staff members are licensed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilots. In summer of 2021, those staff received expanded training on aerial methane surveillance using specialized sensors.
The sensors provide methane concentration data of an air column measured in parts-per-million. The data collected allows CalGEM to identify elevated methane concentrations at a surveyed location. If elevated concentrations are detected, the operator of the oil and gas production facility is required by CalGEM to fully investigate and mitigate any emission sources immediately. Data is also shared with partnering regulatory state and federal agencies.
Watch the CalGEM methane drone monitoring video below to learn more about CalGEM’s latest surveillance technology.