Oceanit Receives US Dept. of Transportation Support For 'SWARMS' and Continued Work on Prevention of Natural Gas Leaks
- In the U.S. an estimated 13 million metric tons of natural gas, primarily methane, is leaked each year with more than 80x the climate warming impact compared to CO2.
- Oceanit’s SWARMS, “Smart Well Assessment and Reservoir Management System,” is being developed to plug and mitigate these methane leaks.
- SWARMS technology also has potential applications for leak prevention in other types or oil & gas reservoirs or formations.
Honolulu, HI July 28, 2023 | In October 2015, a massive natural gas leak was discovered in Aliso Canyon, California. In the months that followed, the leak, also known as the Porter Ranch gas leak, grew to 109,000 metric tons of methane emissions – the single worst natural gas leak in United States history in terms of environmental impact.
Oceanit was awarded funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation to accelerate the development of SWARMS technology to mitigate leaks and blowouts in Underground Natural Gas (UNG) storage wells.
SWARMS stands for “Smart Well Assessment and Reservoir Management System”, and is made up of functionalized particles that are manufactured by applying advanced coatings to cost-effective substrates, such as sand. SWARMS particles are entrained in working fluids and, in leak situations, are drawn into gaps and cracks in storage formations to form plugs and stop leaks.
Natural gas is a non-renewable fossil fuel, consisting mostly of methane, that is used for heating and electricity generation around the world. While it does emit less CO2 compared with other fossil fuels when used, unintended leaks, venting, and storage blowouts are common and vastly increase its carbon footprint.
Natural gas is stored in a number of different ways, however the majority of natural gas in the United States is held in depleted gas or oil fields that are close to user population centers, such as the facility in Aliso Canyon, CA. Once an oil field has stopped producing, it is common practice to use the empty underground well to store compressed natural gas.
Conversion of a field from production to storage takes advantage of existing infrastructure and pipeline connections but comes with risk of leaks and blowouts due to aging well infrastructure. The Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility has a reservoir of an estimated 85 billion cubic feet of natural gas serving the Los Angeles basin. It serves more than 11 million customers and 17 natural gas power plants in a region where 90% of residents rely on natural gas for heating and hot water.
The Aliso Canyon leak was discovered on October 23, 2015, but wasn’t fully stopped until February 18, 2016 when state officials announced that the leak was permanently plugged. The source of the leak was a metal pipe in a breached part of the concrete well casing.
When put into use in similar wells, SWARMS is designed to plug such leaks from within, eliminating the staggering environmental, health, and monetary costs of leaks like Aliso Canyon. Oceanit is working with the U.S. Dept of Transportation, the U.S. Dept of Energy, and private industry partners to demonstrate the effectiveness of SWARMS in a variety of applications from well plugging, to leak mitigation, to well abandonment remediation.
Founded in 1985, Oceanit is a “Mind to Market” company that creates disruptive technology from fundamental science. Utilizing the unique discipline of Intellectual Anarchy, Oceanit reimagines innovation to break the bonds of normal and solve the impossible — delivering technologies to the market that impact humans and society. Oceanit’s diverse teams work across aerospace, healthcare, energy, industrial, and consumer technologies, as well as on environmental and climate issues. Through engineering and scientific excellence, Oceanit transforms fundamental science into impactful, market-focused technologies used around the world.