BP deploys Mars technology in methane-monitoring project

BP PLC’s North Sea business executed a pilot project combining Mars technology with a fixed-wing remote-piloted air system (RPAS), or drone, testing ways to remotely monitor methane emissions on its offshore assets.

BP PLC’s North Sea business executed a pilot project combining Mars technology with a fixed-wing remote-piloted air system (RPAS), or drone, testing ways to remotely monitor methane emissions on its offshore assets.

Highly advanced sensor technology originally designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the Mars Curiosity Rover was combined with a drone that circled the Clair platform West of Shetland at a radius of 550 m for 90 min. It traveled for a total of more than 185 km, beating the previous record of 100 km. The preprogramed drone, once airborne, managed itself autonomously. Throughout the flight, the RPAS live-streamed valuable data collected by the methane sensor.

The specialist drone will be deployed to all of BP’s North Sea assets in 2020, including ETAP and Glen Lyon, the company said.

Project Manager Joe Godwin, Clair field environmental lead, said the company was looking to test a method for collecting large amounts of data over long periods of time without sending people or equipment offshore, adding that the solution “would also have to deal with the turbulent atmospheric conditions that we typically experience offshore in the North Sea.”

The RPAS solution was provided by UK supplier FlyLogix combined with sensor technology by SeekOps, Godwin said. The drone was tracked and remotely controlled by a team of three pilots using satellite communications and radio link from the remote Island of Papa Stour.

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