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NETL Supports University of Oklahoma Project To Retrofit Natural Gas Engines for Methane Mitigation
The University of Oklahoma has created an Advanced Emissions Management Laboratory as part of its NETL-supported methane mitigations project.

The University of Oklahoma has created an Advanced Emissions Management Laboratory as part of its NETL-supported methane mitigations project.

The University of Oklahoma (OU), in cooperation with NETL and industry partners, has developed an advanced retrofit kit for natural gas engines used in the gas production, gathering, transmission and processing sectors that cut emissions while enhancing performance.

“These engines carry out crucial work needed to supply consumers with natural gas,” said NETL’s Joe Renk who managed the project. “However, this machinery poses environmental challenges because it can contribute to total methane emissions each year. The project team is addressing these issues by developing a smart, novel, low-cost, field-installable retrofit kit with integrated sensors.”

In addition to financial and project management support provided by the Lab, OU leveraged partnerships with industry, including WAGO Automation, Mid Continental Rental, Elipsa, and Prescient to create the kits. The technology has been shown to cut methane emissions by up to 70% and enhance the combustion stability and operational envelope of natural gas engines.

The retrofit kit includes an advanced air management system that optimizes engine operation by manipulating key parameters while integrated sensors provide real-time data on engine performance. Virtual sensors enhance the precision of monitoring and control.

“Another benefit of these kits is that they allow operators to remotely monitor the machinery through a cloud-connected feature, allowing for preventative and predictive maintenance. This is a great feature considering that many of these production sites are in locations that are not easy to regularly access,” Renk said.

Beyond contributing to the advancement of more efficient and environmentally friendly industrial engines, the project also resulted in the establishment of an Advanced Emissions Management Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma, which is expected to accelerate research and development activities aimed at improving the efficiency and reducing emissions of the oil and gas facilities, the primary industry in Oklahoma. This site will also serve as a platform to educate local students and faculty members about natural gas compression and emissions measurement and detection technologies.

“The field-test laboratory enables students to engage with real engines and equipment designed for measuring and detecting emissions,” Renk said. “And the project itself has created several opportunities for students from various colleges and universities in the region.”

For example, two undergraduate students were recruited over the summer to contribute to the project. These students actively engaged in various project activities, including conducting tests, developing models and performing analysis. OU also hosted 16 master’s students from the National Defense University, a prestigious higher education institution funded by the Department of Defense. The visit enabled the students to gain insights into cutting-edge technologies and a comprehensive understanding of the challenges associated with energy technology, policy and decision-making.

“OU has shown significant progress in this project that will benefit not only the industry, but the nation as well through the mitigation of methane emissions,” Renk said. “Next steps include extending the application of the proposed technology and transforming it into a versatile retrofit kit suitable for various engines of different sizes and brands, which could enable an even greater impact.”

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.