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SoCalGas firm to use gas-mapping LiDAR to cut methane leaks

25 Aug 2021

US’s largest gas distribution utility signs $12M deal for airborne laser solution from Bridger Photonics.

With the aims of increasing safety and reducing “greenhouse” gas emissions, the USA’s largest gas distribution utility, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), has signed an agreement for $12 million with aerial methane leak detection company Bridger Photonics.

SoCalGas is using Bridger's Gas Mapping LiDAR to detect, pinpoint, and quantify methane emissions throughout its distribution area. While the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the distribution sector accounts for 6% of the oil & gas industries’ emissions, methane, the primary constituent in natural gas, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas on short time scales, says Bridger.

SoCalGas, the mission of which is “to be the cleanest, safest, and most innovative energy company in America”, currently serves over 21 million consumers with nearly 5.9 million meters of natural gas pipeline deployed in more than 500 communities.

While the utility already monitors its service area each year with foot patrols, consistently exceeding regulatory requirements, the company has chosen to proactively scan the remaining 80% each year using Gas Mapping LiDAR to further improve safety and reduce emissions.

Seeking leaks

Helicopters equipped with Bridger’s LiDAR sensors will fly over SoCalGas’s distribution area to scan for methane emissions. After each day’s scan, Bridger will provide SoCalGas with a digital map that shows gas plume images, pinpoints the leak source with GPS coordinates and quantifies the detected methane emissions. The utility will use this information to dispatch appropriate crews straight to the emissions source to resolve the problem.

“Using this new technology is another way we are working to meet our commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2045,” said Gina Orozco, vice president of gas engineering and system integrity at SoCalGas.

“This technology provides us with a critical early detection system that can help us mitigate leaks more quickly, while we also move to use more lower and zero-carbon fuels to increasingly decarbonize our pipeline system.”

Dr. Pete Roos, CEO and co-founder of Bridger added, “We are so proud and excited to support SoCalGas's leadership in improving safety and reducing emissions with Gas Mapping LiDAR.“

Located in Bozeman, Montana, Bridger Photonics provides aerial LiDAR solutions that help oil and gas and manufacturing companies improve the safety and efficiency of their operations. The company developed Gas Mapping LiDAR with funding from the US Department of Energy’s advanced research arm, ARPA-E, and won an R&D100 award for Gas Mapping LiDAR in 2019, which recognized the top 100 innovations worldwide in that year.

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