SwRI adapts SLED/M to automate methane leak detection

17 May 2019

A Southwest Research Institute methane leak detection system is taking flight as part of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) project to develop automated inspections of oil and gas facilities.

Methane leak detection

SwRI researchers will adapt the Smart Leak Detection System/Methane (SLED/M) technology to detect methane leaks in real time, from aboard a drone. SwRI developed SLED/M with DOE NETL funding. SwRI also developed SLED technology, which uses cameras and artificial intelligence to detect liquid hydrocarbon leaks on pipelines and facilities, such as pump stations.

The system identifies small methane leaks, or fugitive emissions, by pairing passive optical sensing data with artificial intelligence algorithms. The latest funding will enable SwRI to collect data, test midwave infrared cameras (MWIR) on drone flights and develop machine learning algorithms to detect methane leaks.

The project will also leverage SwRI’s ongoing research into unmanned aerial systems (UAS), drone automation, navigation, perception, and data analytics. SwRI’s recent drone innovations include adapting technology to autonomously inspect damaged nuclear reactors and other hazardous facilities.