MONITOR Field Test Site

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Fort Collins, Colorado
Project Term:
10/01/2016 - 09/30/2019

Critical Need:

The recent expansion of domestic natural gas production, particularly from shale resources, has improved the economic security of our nation’s energy portfolio. Unfortunately, a growing body of research illustrates that there is significant leakage of methane, the main component of natural gas, associated with oil and gas production. Natural gas power plants have the potential to be more environmentally friendly because they emit less CO2. However, since methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), even small leaks undermine the climate benefits of natural gas fuel switching. Existing methane monitoring methods have limited ability to cost-effectively, continuously, and precisely locate and quantify methane emissions. Oftentimes, operators cannot easily identify leak locations without the use of high-cost and labor-intensive monitoring equipment, hindering efficient and economic repair of leaks. Projects in the ARPA-E MONITOR program aim to address these shortcomings by introducing new technologies that can economically detect, localize, and quantify methane leak sources in the natural gas supply chain. The MONITOR Field Test Site will enable ARPA-E to assess the performance of MONITOR teams’ methane emissions mitigation technologies in a realistic natural gas operational environment.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The team, led by Colorado State University (CSU), will develop a test site facility near Fort Collins, CO where ARPA-E can evaluate the methane sensing technologies of the MONITOR project teams, as required by the MONITOR FOA. The CSU team will design, construct, and operate a natural gas testing facility that can determine whether MONITOR technologies have met or exceeded the technical performance targets set forth by the MONITOR program. The test facility will be designed to realistically mimic the layout of a broad range of natural gas facilities and equipment. The test facility will include a number of controlled natural gas emission release points that will be realistic in terms of location, magnitude, frequency, duration, and gas composition. The design will also include sub-facilities that can simulate different aspects of the natural gas industry supply chain such as dry gas production, wet gas production, midstream compression, metering and regulating stations, and underground pipeline releases. The test site is located in the Denver-Julesburg basin, but will be sufficiently far enough away from natural gas operations that background levels of methane will be very low. Thus, the site will provide a realistic, but highly controllable environment within which the MONITOR technologies can be accurately tested.

Potential Impact:

If successful, the technologies developed under the MONITOR program would generate highly sensitive methodologies for locating and characterizing methane leaks at natural gas well sites with greater precision at much lower cost.


MONITOR projects aim to improve the safety and efficiency of domestic natural gas production by detecting methane leaks and minimizing lost product.


Enhanced detection capabilities could significantly reduce fugitive methane emissions and lead to an overall reduction in harmful greenhouse gas emissions associated with natural gas development.


MONITOR program innovations aim to give producers the tools to decrease the cost of natural gas leak detection and spur a growing emissions services industry at the nation’s more than 480,000 producing natural gas wells, all while keeping natural gas costs low.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Joseph King
Project Contact:
Daniel Zimmerle
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

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