Natural gas leaks at oil and gas production sites result in millions of dollars in fines for oil and gas companies as well as lost revenue and damage to the environment. The challenge is that methane, the primary constituent in natural gas, is lighter than air, odorless, and invisible. There are few options for effectively monitoring leaks.
Until Project Canary was developed, the only way to detect the presence of a leak was to physically inspect each producing site with an expensive, highly specialized infrared camera. There are more than 1.2 million producing wells in the United States. Inspecting every site is expensive and inefficient. Furthermore, many of these leaks are intermittent, occurring when systems become over-pressured and cease to function as designed. During normal operations, a natural gas well produces no significant emissions. A field inspector could inspect and certify a well only to have it begin leaking hours later, releasing thousands of cubic feet of natural gas into the atmosphere.
The Project Canary device consists of a small solar panel mounted on the roof of an actual bluebird house. This panel charges a lithium battery that powers a microprocessor connected to a cellular network. Project Canary engineers have modified these sensors, which were originally designed to monitor indoor air quality, and have optimized them for outdoor application at industrial facilities. This new generation of sensors is exceptionally stable, power efficient, and sensitive to atmospheric contamination levels at parts per billion.