The GE Oil & Technology Center. Image courtesy of GE.

General Electric is designing new technologies for the oil and gas industry, including a drone that can detect methane emissions.

The company opened its Oil & Technology Center in Oklahoma City earlier this month where researchers will explore ways to cut costs in the oil and gas industry.

According to Bloomberg, engineers at the new facility are helping to develop a helicopter drone that will be able to detect methane emissions at well sites.

The drone, known as Raven, was successfully able to detect gas leaks from two wells sites located half a mile apart during a trial run in July at the Fayetteville shale play in Arkansas.

The test was conducted in partnership with Southwestern Energy Co. and Oklahoma State University.

Southwestern Energy’s director of corporate environmental program Douglas Jordan told Bloomberg that Southwestern is interested in conducting another test with Raven.

Raven will also be equipped with custom software that will be used to plan the drone’s flight path and easily interpret the data it gathers.

Head of the Raven project John Westerheide told Bloomberg that Raven could eventually be used to inspect refinery flare stakes or check equipment for wear and tear.

The group is also developing drones that can be used inspect rigs and pipelines, GE said.

The Oil & Technology Center includes two underground test wells, one measuring more than 400 feet deep and the another well measuring 60 feet deep.

The facility’s wells will be used to test new technologies such as new pumps the company is designing that utilizes a coating used on jet engines to make parts more durable.

The center also has a “flow loop” where engineers can simulate oil and gas production environments and test how newly designed parts can handle real-world conditions.

The facility is also equipped with 3D printing machines that can print new part designs and speed up the prototyping and testing of new technologies.

“We have planted innovation roots here in Oklahoma to be closer to our customers and to work side by side with them in delivering new technology solutions to the marketplace faster. We’re excited about the work ahead and the potential of what can be accomplished,” general manager of the Oil & Technology Center Mike Ming said.


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