Laser-based methane hunting is getting a federal cash boost

DOE is backing LongPath Technologies' new methane monitoring network with a $189 million loan.

January 5, 2024
An oil well jack pump and natural gas flare off at sunset in the Bakken oil field north of Williston, North Dakota

Photo credit: William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A methane emissions monitoring project spanning six states and 25 million acres is the year's first recipient of financing from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, which today announced a conditional commitment to loan LongPath Technologies up to $189 million.

  • The nuts and bolts: LongPath’s emissions monitoring technology uses a laser to identify greenhouse gases and other airborne molecules, and notifies system operators of potential leaks. The company’s network is expected to prevent at least six million tons of emissions annually.
  • How it’s getting done: The network will operate as a subscription service, providing emissions detection, location, and quantification services to the thousands of oil and gas sites in six states in the central United States. While LongPath has received a conditional commitment from LPO, funds won’t be distributed until certain agreed-upon conditions are met.
  • The market grounding: Oil and gas production leaks — especially of the super-polluting greenhouse gas methane — are a major source of emissions in the U.S., and have historically been monitored with optical gas imaging cameras. LongPath differentiates itself with laser technology designed to monitor more frequently and detect smaller leaks. 

With the presumed backing of DOE, Colorado-based LongPath will develop the Active Emissions Overwatch System network across oil and gas production basins in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. It will be made up of fifty-foot towers topped with lasers that can monitor around eight square miles. If ultimately finalized, the financing from LPO will support deployment and the installation of lasers covering up to 24,000 square miles.

LongPath’s technology was originally developed with backing from DOE’s ARPA-E office, as well as other DOE grants; its first commercial deployment was in 2020.

The forthcoming project is aligned with the Biden administration’s methane reduction program, created by the Inflation Reduction Act. According to DOE, when compared with optical gas imaging cameras, LongPath’s technology could reduce leaks by 90%.

LongPath said its “radar for methane” solution, though currently being deployed for energy applications, can also be used in other industries like agriculture, waste management, and mining, as well as in urban monitoring. 

This comes as methane in particular becomes a major focus of the global effort to cut emissions. Several commitments during COP28 — including a $255 million global flaring and methane reduction fund — lend urgency to the cuts, and could be a boon for the young methane detection sector.

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