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Researchers Aim to Improve Oil, Gas Leak Detection With Quantum-Enhanced Sensing

August 2, 2021

Researchers Aim to Improve Oil, Gas Leak Detection with Quantum-Enhanced Sensing

Alberto Marino
Alberto Marino

NORMAN, OKLA. – Researchers are using quantum-enhanced fiber sensing to try to detect oil and gas leaks before they become large enough to damage the environment.

Alberto Marino, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Science’s Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, is the principal investigator for the research with Jyotsna Sharma, an assistant professor in petroleum engineering at LSU, and researchers Raphael Pooser and Elvis Dominguez-Ontiveros at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The three-year project is funded by a $750,000 Department of Energy grant.

“Current commercial techniques for leakage detection are limited by environmental and background noise and do not offer enough sensitivity to detect small leaks,” Marino said. “We are looking toward quantum-enhanced fiber sensing for improving the ability to detect leaks sooner.”

At OU, Marino is constructing a portable source of quantum states of light and developing sensing modalities compatible with quantum approaches to enhance the sensitivity of fiber optic sensors. The next step will be to test the sensors at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to see how they operate in environments with higher pressure and temperature variations before testing the developed quantum techniques under real-life conditions at LSU’s 5,000 ft. deep high-pressure test well.

“The proposed research provides a path forward for the use of quantum-enhanced sensing for oil and gas applications and will lead to ultra-sensitive quantum sensors that have the potential to fundamentally revolutionize downhole and surface surveillance technology,” he said. “The proposed research could lead to one of the first commercial applications for quantum technologies.” Further, Marino said, quantum-enhanced sensing could additionally “open new frontiers for safe hydrocarbon exploration, production, and transport.”