Inside Quantum Technology

Using Quantum-Enhanced Fiber Sensing to Boost Fiber-Optic Oil & Gas Leak Sensors

( 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.Her research is funded by a $750,000 grant from the Department of Energy, using quantum-enhanced fiber sensing for oil and gas applications.
Sharma, who also serves as the Devon Energy Career Development Professor at LSU, is working alongside University of Oklahoma Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Alberto Marino to develop a quantum-sensing approach that is compatible with current infrastructure in the oil and gas industry and can outperform the current state-of-the-art techniques.
“A major area of concern in the oil and gas industry is preventing environmental contamination caused by subsurface leaks due to well integrity issues and surface spillage through the millions of miles of surface, underground, and subsea pipelines that accrue over years,” Sharma said. “This spillage causes ecological damage, human casualties, and economic loss.”
Current commercial techniques for leakage detection are limited by environmental and background noise and don’t offer enough sensitivity to detect small leaks. Such noises include pump- and fluid-handling noise and waves in offshore operations.
“We will use quantum states of light to enhance the sensitivity of fiber-optic leakage sensors,” Sharma said. “We believe that the recent developments in quantum information science can lead to a paradigm shift in the field with the potential for a large impact for oil and gas applications through improvements in monitoring technology for earlier identification and warning.”

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