Woodside's Innovative Approach to Managing Methane Emissions in Natural Gas Supply Chains
Woodside Energy is using drones to measure methane emissions from its onshore and offshore facilities to prioritise projects for improvement as part of its decarbonisation plans.
Global associations, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), have promoted tackling methane emissions from fossil fuel operations as a critical step in limiting the effects of climate change.
Gas producers, such as Woodside, must have a planned and practical strategy to manage methane emissions within their natural gas supply chains.
Woodside has taken specific action to reduce methane emissions and developed a "fit-for-purpose" and targeted approach, which enables the identification and prioritisation of projects.
One example of Woodside's efforts is its partnership with John Crane Australia, methane measurement specialist SeekOps Inc and drone piloting service provider Arcadis NV for the drone-based methane emissions quantification survey.
This approach was undertaken at several facilities.
The use of drone-based technology more easily enables key methane emissions sources to be identified and mitigation projects developed for inclusion in broader decarbonisation plans.
Woodside undertook several different types of methane surveys in 2022. These included a drone-based methane measurement quantification campaign, targeted equipment surveys, and flare performance monitoring via what Woodside believes is the first trial of the Providence Photonics video imaging spectro-radiometry (VISR) in Australia.
Drone-based surveys report results using mass balance measurement and calculation, and unlike many other quantification techniques can be used offshore.
To conduct measurements, drones are fitted with a methane tuneable diode laser absorption spectrometer sensor, logging methane concentrations several times per second. As the sensor is flown through a source, the methane concentration varies and is compared to background levels, enabling flux planes and emission rates to be derived using vendor proprietary algorithms.
As well as drone geospatial positioning, wind direction and speed measurement are important considerations, the latter being recorded via a tripod anemometer.
In 2022, nine drone surveys were completed at Woodside’s offshore and onshore facilities in Australia and the Gulf of Mexico. They included an onshore gas plant, metering station, four offshore fixed platforms, an LNG facility and three offshore floating production storage and offtake vessels.
The survey team consisted of a pilot and a standby observer as well as other company representatives.
Prior to the surveys, validation trials were undertaken in Perth, including training of local personnel. By partnering with local third-party service providers, Woodside’s intent was to support ongoing methane emissions measurement campaigns within Western Australia, across the natural gas supply chain and for use by other industries.
In the northwest Australian operations, Woodside chose to conduct the surveys using a utility vessel to enable greater flexibility. Conversely, teams operated the drone directly from the asset helipad for the surveys in the Gulf of Mexico.
These measurements helped Woodside to identify the highest priority methane emissions reduction opportunities and include these in asset decarbonisation plans as methane action plans.
The accuracy and completeness of Woodside’s methane inventories are informed by top-down or whole-of-facility measurement technologies such as drone surveys as well as direct measurement campaigns on material sources. Top-down verification prevents an overreliance on estimates, which can mislead mitigation priorities. Woodside is also developing source level, bottom-up methane inventories for its assets using internationally recognised methods.
The survey supports Woodside's goal to reduce its net equity Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030, and its aspiration to be net zero by 2050. It also aligns with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative's (OGCI) Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions Initiative, of which Woodside is a signatory. The OGCI is initiative encourages operators to strive to reach "near zero" methane emissions by 2030.
Woodside is also working with other organisations within Western Australia and Australia to reduce methane emissions across the gas supply chain.
In 2021, Woodside commenced non-operated joint venture (NOJV) workshops to share methane-related learnings and enhance mitigation in Western Australia’s natural gas value chain. In 2022, these engagements were continued to support the sharing of methane-related knowledge. Woodside aims to extend the reach of these technical workshops in 2023 through its membership of the Methane Guiding Principles.
Thank you to our 2022 Energy Industry Game Changer Award Sponsor MinRes Energy (formerly Energy Resources Limited).