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emissions solutions

going where few drones have gone before

2 min read | november 10, 2022

A worker is pictured operating a drone in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Chevron now deploys sensor-affixed drones to detect methane emissions in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, becoming one of the first in the industry to do so. 

the challenge

Using drone sensors offshore is especially tricky because ocean water can confuse emission detection technology, providing false readings.

The situation becomes even more challenging given the size of multilevel oil platforms with layered equipment. Pinpointing emission sources from overhead sensors alone can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

solution with sensors

To solve these challenges, our Gulf of Mexico business unit worked with our San Joaquin Valley business unit in California, which supplied the emissions sensor for mounting on a drone.

  • Ahead of takeoff, we modified the sensor’s laser orientation so it could better identify emissions sources at each level of the platform.
  • We used the drone to monitor all five of our Gulf of Mexico platforms.

why it matters

“We have for decades relied on the best available data to calculate our emissions for each of our identified sources,” said Kathy Sharp, Chevron air quality specialist. “The drone sensor has the potential to provide actual top-down emission monitoring data that can validate those calculations.”

drone flying over sensors one the ocean to check for methane

more on that

We use several technologies to monitor methane emissions throughout our U.S. onshore operations. Offshore, monitoring has been largely limited to handheld devices, until now.

“We wanted to be able to prove we could use the technology offshore,” said Sharp, who helped facilitate the drone project. “We also wanted to confirm that we weren’t missing any large sources.”

what’s next?

We now know that drone sensors can be used to detect offshore methane emissions, but they aren’t yet able to quantify those emissions. We plan to explore other technologies that could provide more specific data in our ongoing quest to reduce and eliminate methane emissions.
The Gulf of Mexico has some of the lowest carbon intensity production within Chevron's portfolio. It averages an intensity of 6 kg carbon equivalent per barrel of oil equivalent, a fraction of the global average.

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