Can quantum tech boost fiber-optic oil, gas leak sensors?

July 10, 2021 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Researchers in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee are working to see whether quantum-enhanced fiber sensing could detect offshore oil and gas leaks before they’re big enough to damage the environment.

“We will use quantum states of light to enhance the sensitivity of fiber-optic leakage sensors,” said Jyotsna Sharma, an assistant professor in petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University.

Sharma and Alberto Marino, an associate professor of atomic, molecular and optical physics at the University of Oklahoma, have a $750,000 Department of Energy grant to work with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on the three-year project.

Current commercial techniques for leak detection are limited by environmental and background noises, including those from waves and pumps, Sharma said in a news release.

She thinks recent developments in quantum information science can greatly improve the monitoring, so that leaks could be found before they’re big enough to destroy marine life.

After lab tests, the team will test new techniques at a 5,000-foot-deep high-pressure test well at LSU’s Petroleum Engineering Research, Training, & Testing Lab.

They hope to develop a system compatible with current oil and gas infrastructure.