Methane Emissions

Natural gas is an important source of power in the United States. An estimated 300,000 miles of pipeline transport natural gas across the country, while thousands of gathering, processing, and storage facilities prepare and store the gas for end users.

At each point in the process of production, methane can be released into the atmosphere as a result of leakage. On a twenty-year time horizon, methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The Energy Institute at Colorado State University partners with universities, research institutions, and the natural gas industry to discover new and effective methods for finding and reducing methane leaks at every stage of natural gas production.

METEC Research Group

The METEC research program centers around a staff of research scientists, management and students who are focused on emissions from oil & gas (O&G) infrastructure.

The research group engages in three major categories of research work:

Testing Leak Detection: Over 40 leak detection and quantification (LDAQ) technologies or solutions have tested at METEC, ranging from basic technology testing to full single-blind protocol tests.  Anyone can test at METEC; see the “Engaging with METEC” page for instructions, and Leak Detection and Quantification Solutions page for a list of LDAQ solutions. Customers can engage the test facility for confidential ad-hoc testing or join a range of public programs.  There are ongoing testing windows available at METEC.

Safety Research: Emissions are not the only focus. METEC also hosts a range of gas safety research.  Current projects focus on detecting and understanding underground pipeline leaks.  Major projects (RPLUME and UPSIDE) are constructing new research test beds at METEC, while smaller projects are focused on sensing solutions (InSense and NYSEARCH).

Basic Research: A portion of the METEC IAB funding is used for small, basic, research projects of common interest to IAB members.  Previous projects includes a fence line monitor experiment.

The METEC team, and associated faculty in other parts of the university, have been involved in multiple large-scale field campaigns covering most sectors of the natural gas supply chain, and coordinated campaigns that measure regions using multiple scales of measurement.

From our experience with field research, we have learned the value of rigorously testing commonly methods and instruments used during field campaigns.  


  • Optical gas imaging (OGI) – see the recently released controlled study of OGI efficacy at METEC.
  • OGI training class – We’ve rolled the results from this study into an ‘OGI Practical’ class to train OGI surveyors.  Additional practical classes may follow.
  • High volume sampler – We’re developing an open-source architecture for the high-volume sampler measurement method, the most commonly used method for measuring component emissions.

The simulation of emissions is a critical to understanding the performance of LDAQ solutions.  We call this the Pathway to Equivalence – a set of tools and methods to compare leak detection solutions with widely varying deployment modalities and performance, on a wide range of facility types.

The METEC group is working on the simulation of emission, in conjunction with the University of Texas at Austin, developing MEET – the Methane Emissions Estimation Tool and with Harrisburg University, developing FEAST – the Fugitive Emissions Abatement Simulation Tool.

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