North Sea Methane

Fugitive Emissions from Offshore Gas Fields in the North Sea

Start date
1 March, 2018
End date
1 October, 2019

Offshore gas fields worldwide are major sources of methane emissions. Some emissions are from routine operations or minor engineering failures. Others are large unexpected leaks, such as the Elgin gas leak in the North Sea. In less-regulated fields methane is simply flared or even vented. The need is to develop reliable methodologies to locate emissions, and pinpoint sources. This project is designed to identify and quantify emissions from the North Sea gas fields, and develop methodologies that can then be applied to gas fields elsewhere to assess emissions at local scales.

The project is led by Dr Dave Lowry (Royal Holloway University of London) and involves a number of UK HEIs as well as BAS. The North Sea gas emissions will be quantified during a series of aircraft campaigns using BAS’s Twin Otter aircraft and MASIN instrument suite. Observations of methane, as well as isotopes and a range of other hydrocarbons will be made. Together, these will be used to quantify emissions from key North Sea gas platforms, as well as provide evidence (from the isotopic signature) that the observed gas is emanating from a platform, and not land nearby.

The overall project aims are:

  1. Location of gas platforms that are significant fugitive methane emitters.
  2. Separation of fugitive flare / leaks from other emissions using carbon-isotopic fingerprinting.
  3. Estimate of total methane emissions for southern northern sectors of the North Sea.
  4. Improvement of flux (and sampling) methodologies for rapid quantification of major gas leaks.