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QLM develops LIDAR / quantum camera for visualising / quantifying methane leaks

Monday, April 12, 2021

QLM Technology of Bristol, UK, has developed a LIDAR camera, using quantum technologies, which can visualise and quantify methane leaks in oil and gas production.

The development of the camera was supported by BP, National Grid, AMETEK Land, and the UK Government.

Unlike many infrared based methane detectors, it is designed to be used continuously on site, providing ongoing monitoring for emissions.

The camera exploits the principles of quantum mechanics (an understanding of sub-atomic particles). The camera is one of the first commercially-available products from the £1 billion UK National Quantum Technologies Programme. A "Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge", part of this programme, has backed over 80 businesses so far, including QLM.

Existing laser-based systems for methane quantification utilise complex and costly mirror arrays to reflect light in to a conventional detector. By contrast, the QLM product uses a quantum single photon avalanche detector (SPAD) which is so sensitive it can detect just a few photons of light and can therefore 'see' gas without the need for a mirror.

'With quantum technology, we have effectively made the whole world a mirror. This is a major breakthrough, and unlocks our ability to enable gas operators limit the emission of gases," says Murray Reed, CEO of QLM Technology.

The quantum single-photon detection of the camera allows for gas plumes to be detected and measured over large physical distances. The first version of the camera, mounted on a mast, is available for commercial trial this year, and trials involving UAV-mounted cameras are scheduled to begin next year.

'Whilst the oil and gas majors have pledged to significantly reduce methane emissions in coming years, you can't manage what you can't measure; and no-one is measuring methane properly, continuously, and at scale,"

'In the UK alone, we have 24 pipeline compressor stations, which power long-distance natural gas pipes, and hundreds of above ground storage installations. All are leaking at some time.'

QLM has been selected as one of 12 Bloomberg New Energy Futures (BNEF) Pioneers for 2021, from a pool of over 250 applicants.

QLM Technology was founded by its Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Xiao Ai, after postgraduate research into single photon Lidar gas detection at the University of Bristol. He realised that his research, in which a Lidar beam simultaneously probed both the shape and the concentration of plumes of methane, could help achieve Net Zero through mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre at the university helped Dr. Ai form QLM Technology Ltd in 2017. Dr. Murray Reed, a photonics industry veteran with thirty years of experience commercialising cutting-edge technology in Silicon Valley, became CEO in June 2019.

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