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Ball Lights the Way with Methane Monitoring

Ball Lights the Way with Methane Monitoring


How do you find a gas that you can neither see nor smell? Methane, the main constituent of natural gas, is odorless, colorless and tasteless – but also highly flammable. With more than 2.6 million miles of natural gas pipeline in the U.S., the need to detect hazardous methane leak emissions is critical to protecting our families and homes and ensuring the health of the nation’s valuable oil and gas infrastructure. A technology from Ball Aerospace provides one solution that customers can use to quickly, easily and affordably respond to methane leaks.

Ball’s methane monitoring technology leverages 30 years of heritage in light detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems for space-based and airborne programs, such as CALIPSO and OAWL. Flying on a single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft, Ball’s innovative Methane Monitor uses an active LIDAR system to observe gas leaks from the air regardless of cloud conditions by emitting pulses of light that interact with the terrain, surveying more than 100 square miles of oil and gas productions regions per day, or 375 miles of transmission pipelines per day.


Ball’s advanced technology delivers high resolution data – down to 50 parts per million meters (ppm-m) - in near real-time, offering significant cost savings and more precise mapping capabilities than existing detection technologies, such as foot-patrol, vehicle-mounted detectors, low-flying helicopters or satellites. The Methane Monitor’s extremely high spatial resolution, paired with wide area mapping, enables operators to map entire infrastructures with extreme sensitivity to find and source individual leaks. The wide area mapping is also useful for detecting natural gas seeps from geologic outcrops, helping exploration and production companies locate probable subsurface gas resources at the surface.

The sensor flies at an altitude up to 3,500 feet (1,070 meters) and at a speed of 125 mph (55 m/s) for efficient, safe, cost-effective mapping. Using Ball’s advanced steering mirror pointing controls, the Methane Monitor can be easily pointed to the area of interest, reducing pilot error and enabling accurate tracking. Comprehensive data is available in just a few hours after flight with notifications of large plumes in real time. Fully processed data is available within 24 hours.

What started as an internal and external investment to evaluate the safety of pipeline operations, has turned into much more – a truly cost-effective commercial technology capable of rapidly monitoring large areas of oil and gas production facilities and miles of pipeline to detect methane leaks.

Ball’s sensor is at the forefront of methane detection technology and at a cost point that makes monitoring leaks to address safety and environmental concerns effective from a business standpoint. Ball Aerospace’s Methane Monitor will see the invisible - protecting our families, our infrastructure and our planet.