This project addresses PHMSA’s request for improvements in pipeline leak detection in diverse operating conditions by developing methods-centric rather than technology-specific understanding of leak detection in adverse conditions, with an emphasis on pipeline emissions in rugged landscapes. This work will:

  1. investigate existing private and public service providers’ and operators’ LDAD methods and their applicability to complex pipeline  environments;  
  2. recommend enhancements to  overcome  shortcomings to  existing  approaches;
  3. conduct comprehensive, multi-solution controlled and field testing, including testing multiple pipeline types (e.g. flow and gathering lines), complex environments (including aerodynamics, topology, and accessibility) and varying operating conditions; and
  4. deliver empirical analysis of enhancements to LDAQ protocols that can be realistically incorporated into operator leak detection protocols and aid developers in LDAQ solution development.

Major scope items for investigation include protocol enhancements, controlled testing and field trials, and methods performance simulation using robust test data sets. Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) will collaborate with industry and solution providers, who will be members on a technical advisory panel, provide access to their LDAQ protocols, and, in some cases, participate in field testing. Testing will be conducted at CSU’s Methane Emission Technology Evaluation Center (METEC), on public land in collaboration with the US Forest Service and US Dept of Agriculture, and at service provider/operator test facilities.  


Our objectives in APpLIED are to:

  1. Develop method-centric understanding of leak detection and quantification (LDAQ) for pipelines in productions, midstream, and distribution.
  2. Develop the science and understanding behind how to test LDAQ, not simply test a suite of current LDAQ technologies.
  3. Put special focus on environmentally and geographically diverse conditions, including gas composition, climate, terrain, and complex urban and rural environments.

Project Plan:

In year one, we will run suites of controlled release experiments at METEC and surrounding regions with more diverse geography, including the Colorado State University Mountain Campus. Each experiment will test the validity of different LDAQ methods for the set of conditions being studied. Then in year two, we will test our developed LDAQ methods at real-world pipeline sites.


APpLIED kicked off in October 2023. We recruited a technical advisory board and have drafted a guidance document on leak detection applicability in adverse conditions and a survey for existing and emerging LDAQ protocols. Controlled testing is ongoing through Spring – Fall of 2023. In Spring – Summer of 2024, we will conduct real-world field tests of pipelines. The project is scheduled to wrap up all final reporting by September, 2024.


We have submitted our survey of existing and emerging LDAQ operation practices and report on leak detection method applicability in adverse conditions to PHMSA.  

Opportunities to Participate:

Interested in participating?  There are several ways to get engaged in this project: 

  • Industry advisory Board (IAB) – The IAB is an opportunity for stakeholders of all types to be included in planning and steering the focus of controlled experiments. 
  • Controlled testing – Controlled testing at METEC will be performed following the protocol developed in this project. Contact us for information on how to participate. 
  • Field test sites – Operators may partner with us to test flow rates in different soils during the field testing. Contact us for information on how to participate.
  • Contact for further information.

Funding Provided by:

PHMSA Award No. 693JK32210006POTA


Southern Methodist University (SMU)

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