$3.5M methane emissions test site to be built at CSU

Colorado State University will be home to a national testing facility for evaluating new technologies for sensing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a CSU team about $3.5 million over three years to create and operate the facility, which will simulate a broad range of natural gas production systems for testing technologies in real-world industry conditions.

The site will allow research teams from all over the U.S. to test new technologies for enhanced methane sensing. All the teams, including CSU’s, are funded under the ARPA-E MONITOR (Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions) program. For example, Aeris Technologies is developing a new methane leak detection system, while Duke University is working on an advanced spectrometer for methane detection.

The CSU team is led by principal investigator Daniel Zimmerle, a senior research associate at the CSU Energy Institute. The CSU team includes: Anthony Marchese, CSU professor of mechanical engineering; Jeffrey Collett, CSU professor of atmospheric science; Jeffrey Pierce, CSU assistant professor of atmospheric science; Clay Bell, postdoctoral researcher at the CSU Energy Institute; Timothy Vaughn and Gerald Duggan, research associates at the CSU Energy Institute; and Arsineh Hecobian, a research scientist in atmospheric science. Also partnering with the CSU researchers are Kathleen Smits, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado School of Mines; and Dag Nummedal, director of the Colorado Energy Research Institute at Colorado School of Mines.

“These technologies represent breakthroughs in what’s possible in methane sensing. Some of the solutions are the equivalent of a $20,000 instrument reduced to a $500 package,” Zimmerle said.

Joining with their Colorado School of Mines partners, the CSU team will design, construct and operate the new facility on CSU property near Fort Collins. The facility will consist of multiple sub-facilities that simulate different operations throughout the natural gas industry supply chain: dry gas production, wet gas production, midstream compression, metering and regulating stations, and underground pipelines.

“Our job is to assist in bringing these technologies to market,” Zimmerle added.  “We’ll help companies prove out solutions in a controlled environment prior to deployment in the field.”

The site will be located completely outside oil and gas basins, to allow for near-complete control of background and onsite emissions, making it ideally suited for scientific testing. Home base for all operations will be the CSU Powerhouse Energy Campus, a premier large-engine test facility, which has maintained an active relationship with the natural gas industry for more than two decades.