A Q&A with Bridger Photonics Accounts Manager Kerry Neal
Bridger Photonics uses Gas Mapping LiDAR™ (GML) technology to scan for oil and gas methane emissions throughout the U.S. and Canada, including production basins and transmission lines in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. A number of Canadian production operators use GML in alternative Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs called Alternative Fugitive Emission Management Programs, or Alt-FEMPs. To learn more about Alt-FEMPs, we sat down with Bridger Accounts Manager, Kerry Neal, who works with our Canadian clients that use GML for their Alt-FEMPs.
Q: Can you tell us more about Alt-FEMPs?
Neal: Under the Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER) Directive 060, operators must routinely conduct fugitive emission surveys using hand-held organic vapor analyzers (OVA) or optical gas imaging (OGI) devices. The Alt-FEMP is an opportunity for operators to apply to use an alternative approved detection technology, beyond the standard OVA or OGI ground crew scans, to conduct methane emission scans. In Alberta, Alt-FEMPs have been approved starting in 2020. There is a process to use an Alt-FEMP in Saskatchewan, as well as federally. The province of British Columbia is also looking to adopt an Alt-FEMP process similar to Alberta’s. For our purposes, my responses will apply to AER’s Alt-FEMPs only.
Q: What are the operator benefits of using the Alt-FEMP program?
Neal: Using Bridger’s GML as an Alt-FEMP detection technology can reduce the time and expense required to conduct leak detection on facilities, and ultimately streamline the efficiency of the LDAR process for operators. We’ve found that around two-thirds of sites do not have detectable emissions on them, so operators would not need to send ground crew out to conduct follow-up OVA or OGI surveys on those facilities and can instead prioritize resources to address the sites with emitters.
Depending on how an operator conducts their LDAR program, the Alt-FEMP could be an opportunity to reduce costs. Our team ran some calculations comparing the cost of the standard OGI program here in the U.S. to an alternative program in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new methane rule which would similarly allow for use of alternative technologies—you can check it out here to get an idea of the cost comparison.
Using an Alt-FEMP is a great way to increase efficiency for an LDAR program. It can be difficult for handheld technologies to find leaks on taller pieces of equipment, like tanks and malfunctioning flares. Hand-held technologies also struggle to detect methane emissions from incomplete combustion, such as from flares or compressor exhaust. Using aerial technology can provide a more comprehensive picture of fugitive emissions. We provide plume imagery and, optionally, equipment ID, in addition to high-resolution aerial photography taken during the scans, so the data is turnkey for repair crews.
Q: What’s the process of applying for an Alt-FEMP and who submits the proposal?
Neal: In Alberta, the operator submits the Alt-FEMP proposal for either a pilot or full-scale program. A detailed overview is provided here. An emissions modeling company, like Arolytics or Highwood Emissions Management, can conduct the requisite modeling component for the proposal.
Q: Will the Alt-FEMP allow operators to permanently use an alternative detection technology?
Neal: Potentially. Part of the reason the AER is offering the Alt-FEMP option is to evaluate how effective advanced technologies are compared to traditional ground crew scans. The results from the pilot programs will inform future technology approvals for LDAR programs in Alberta.
Q: Can Bridger help me meet Alt-FEMP requirements?
Neal: Yes, Bridger’s GML has been included in a number of successful Alt-FEMP applications in Alberta. We can provide the information needed for an Alt-FEMP that includes us as a detection solution.
Q: What does an Alt-FEMP with Bridger look like?
Neal: First, Bridger requires a list of the sites with GPS coordinates that the operator wishes to include in their application. Using that information, we then create a proposal and an estimated timeline for the project. This information is included in the Alt-FEMP proposal, submitted by the operator, to AER. It typically takes the AER around 60 days to evaluate the proposal. If approved by AER, we will then take care of planning our scans and coordinating with your ground crews. We keep the operator informed of the schedule, and organize a project kick-off meeting so all parties know what to expect and when reports will be delivered. Once the data is acquired and all aerial scans are complete, we send the processed reports to the operator in 5-10 business days. From that point, the operator will use the GML data to see which sites had emissions that require follow-up by their ground crews, as defined in their Alt-FEMP proposal. Once a round of the Alt-FEMP scans are completed, the operator submits a progress report to the AER. Over multiple scans, emissions reductions can be documented.
Q: Will it cost extra to use Bridger’s technology as part of an Alt-FEMP rather than just use the traditional scans?
Neal: This largely depends on the current implementation of LDAR for an operator, but once a new program is established for an operator it can be significantly more efficient than a traditional LDAR program in terms of emissions detected per dollar spent and the value of keeping gas in the pipes. Peer-reviewed third-party research has shown that GML detects far more emissions than traditional OGI scans, but among fewer leaks, so this means that more emissions can be mitigated with fewer repairs. It’s a major efficiency improvement on multiple fronts.
Q: Anything else that an operator should know about Alt-FEMPs?
Neal: The AER does publicly share sites covered in the Alt-FEMP on their website, the type of technologies selected, performance data collected during the Alt-FEMP, and emission reduction assessment results.
Also, we’ve seen some great success with our Canadian clients that use Alt-FEMPS, and we’re excited to continue to help operators reduce their emissions footprint using this forward-thinking program.
Kerry Neal is an Accounts Manager at Bridger Photonics, where she works with operators in Canada to help them reach their emissions reduction goals with Gas Mapping LiDAR. Kerry is a master’s-level engineer and physicist by training and joined the Bridger team with more than a decade of experience in engineering and accounts management for several tech and optics companies.
When she’s not helping clients reduce methane emissions, Kerry loves to be outside, spending her time hiking, trail running, backpacking, and cross-country skiing.