A Q&A with Bridger Photonics Data Processing Technician Elizabeth Desser
The team of Data Processing Technicians at Bridger Photonics (Bridger) are the backbone of the actionable methane emissions data produced using Gas Mapping LiDAR™ (GML). Our Data Processing Technicians have strong backgrounds in computer science, geosciences, GIS, physics, and engineering. They take geo-referenced GML sensor data, including emission location, emission rate quantification, path-integrated concentration, and aerial photography, and manually process the data. Their procedures include rigorous quality assurance checks that produce actionable client reports.
We sat down with Elizabeth Desser, one of our Data Processing Technicians, to learn more about her role and impact at Bridger.
Q: Tell us what a Data Processing Technician does at Bridger Photonics?
Desser: Our team of Data Processors work with Bridger Photonics’ Accounts Managers and Flight Planners to generate and provide actionable methane emissions data products to our clients.
Data Processors follow a rigorous workflow, applying quality assurance, or QA, measures after each step. Using proprietary software that was developed in-house combined with satellite and aerial imagery, and other maps, we derive GML data products that include methane emission locations, emission flux characteristics, and identification of the emitting oil and gas (O&G) equipment. Our data processing procedures factor in the flight coverage characteristics, emission persistence, time of day, and wind conditions of our surveys. Once the data is processed and passes our strict quality standards, we generate client reports that are passed to our Accounts Managers who disseminate these to our clients. Our clients use our reports and data products to go straight to the source equipment to address their methane emissions.
Q: What does an average day look like for you?
Desser: The first thing I do on a typical day is check in with my team and review our project management system to plan for my day. My team manages GML surveys for the central US region, and we’re currently processing a job covering production facilities in a major Oklahoma basin, so that’s been my focus lately. Throughout the day, my team communicates our work status to coordinate activities, report any issues, and ensure all phases of our jobs are on schedule. When there is down time, my teammates and I work on development projects that include streamlining our data processing practices, writing documentation, and developing our ongoing training.
Q: How did your background in geosciences set you up for success in your role at Bridger?
Desser: My background is highly complementary to my work now with LiDAR-based remote sensing at Bridger Photonics. My education in geosciences, and recent experience as a seismic interpreter and processor with Shell Upstream in Houston, TX prepared me well for the data processing role. I’ve also worked in other capacities in the O&G industry, in the mineral exploration sphere, and in the financial industry.
My experience has proven to be an asset in my role here at Bridger, which I hope to continue to leverage as I gain tenure and more exposure to our GML data products and other aspects of Bridger’s operations and business. Given that our clients are O&G operators, my background has enabled me to easily “speak the language” of the industry. Also, the geologic context of the sites we scan is important to consider throughout our data processing workflows, as it can influence O&G equipment characteristics, weather conditions, quality of our aerial photography, and potentially even more factors.
Q: How do you balance speed and efficiency with the need for accuracy and thoroughness when processing data?
Desser: It is important to understand the larger picture of our processing workflows when considering the balance of speed and quality.
The process begins with uploading and validating the GML survey coverage to ensure we scanned all areas of interest. Following this, we analyze each scanned site for methane emissions, and use the collected topographic and atmospheric LiDAR data to mark positive detections, quantify the flux characteristics, and assign other factors to the emission. We then process the aerial photography for site images taken by our sensor camera during the scans. There are also QA steps embedded between each processing step.
Our team manages a large and dynamic workload of GML processing jobs. To balance the heavy workload with the need for accuracy, we allocate tasks within the team, and often rotate to help each other keep work on schedule. With time, each data processor picks up speed and efficiency. We continually seek ways to accelerate our workflows without compromising quality; one way we are reducing the processing timeline is through automation of manual steps where it makes sense. While these build efficiencies in our processing, our work still requires human quality assurance, and likely always will.
Q: How do you collaborate with other members of the Bridger Photonics team?
Desser: The Data Processing Team collaborates with other Bridger Photonics teams, including our Accounts Managers, Flight Planners, Sensor Manufacturers, and our Software Developers. Effective communication and collaboration skills are essential for our organization to thrive and are integral to the Data Processing Team’s success. To this end, we hold weekly meetings for different sets of operations and processing folks, to stay abreast of the work, communicate any concerns, and even share a fun topic or two. Timely collaboration with our Flight Planners is a notable example, since we may need to request a follow-up scan of a site before the flight crew moves to another location. On a continual basis, we engage with our Software Team on systems management, software version control, and needed updates that keep our GML data processing software at the leading edge.
Q: Can you tell us about the data quality assurance procedures that you use before a dataset is sent to a client?
Desser: Our QA steps help to systematically reduce errors and allow us to confidently generate the final reports to our clients. We take pride in our ability to produce high-quality, accurate data so operators can send their crews right to the emissions sources, literally. The data processing workflow includes robust QA measures following each step to ensure our standards are met. For example, we have a step where we check the spatial coverage of the scans to ensure it meets our standards. We also have QA steps for emission detection, aerial photography, equipment identification, etc.
The QA process is quite involved, but we keep in mind that our products directly influence a series of client activities to inspect and repair their leaking equipment, so accuracy is imperative. The QA protocols following each processing step make this possible.
Q: What is your favorite part of working at Bridger Photonics?
Desser: It’s a great privilege to support Bridger’s GML mission to help the O&G sector reduce methane emissions with actionable data. Our Data Processing Team provides a critical role in this effort, and it feels great to be a part of a mission that influences the health of our planet. With our GML technology at the forefront of emissions detection for our clients and research partners, the data we generate directly addresses and helps resolve methane emissions. Another favorite part of working at Bridger Photonics is their support of innovation and implementation of improvements to develop our organizational systems and processes. This freedom to ideate and apply our individual and combined ingenuity to improve our organization inspires me and allows me to push past my own preconceived barriers to professional development and progress.
Q: Any other thoughts you would like to share?
Bridger’s GML is a game changer in the race to mitigate methane emissions so operators can keep gas in the pipes, support their individual decarbonization goals, and to support national and global emission reduction goals, like the Global Methane Pledge launched by the USA and the EU which aims to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030 (Climate and Clean Air Coalition). In 2022, Bridger Photonics detected an outstanding amount of methane—check out the blog article that discusses the totals and some important assumptions. Not only are we reducing emissions, but we are also helping the O&G industry to operate safely and more efficiently. Our work feels like a win-win in so many ways.
Elizabeth Desser completed her BS in geosciences from the University of Arizona and MS in geosciences from Penn State University, focusing on seismology. After her graduate studies she worked as a seismic processor and interpreter for Shell in Houston, TX focusing on ultra-deepwater oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Currently, she is working on a PhD in Education from the University of Rochester's Margaret Warner School of Education and Human Development, focusing on workforce training and development. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Montana's geology and trails, local arts and music scenes, farmers markets, and cooking dishes from around the world.
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