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                                                                            Application Note:
                                     Monitoring for Methane Migration in Water Wells

Because of the recent developments of the shale gas industry the presence of methane gas and the potential for methane gas migration is a growing concern. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas that is lighter than air and often goes undetected. Just like radon gas, methane gas migrates naturally up through the soil, geological materials, and through the groundwater and into your home or water well. When your water well is pumped, the drop in the level of the water in the wellbore reduces the pressure within the formation and permits more gas to migrate toward the wellbore. If the well is not properly vented and there happens to be substantial amounts of methane, the gas could accumulate under the well cap near the electrical connections for your well or the methane could enter with the well water and outgas in your home. 

The US Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining, suggests that when the level of methane gas in the water is less than 10 mg/L it is safe, but monitoring is required at 10 to 28 mg/L, and immediate action is needed above 28 mg/L. At a level of 28 mg/L, the water is fully saturated with methane and it is likely that any air space in the well is at or approaching the Lower Explosion Limit (LEL). The air and out-gassing methane, not the water, is now flammable.

When to Test for Methane?
A common question that is asked is when to test for methane in your water well. Methane in well water is controlled by many factors and conditions and it can be highly variable. If you want to test under the conditions most favorable to methane gas migrate it would be advisable to conduct testing when one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • Barometric pressure is low and soils are saturated.

  • When snow cover is just beginning to melt.

  • Ground is frozen or ice covered.

  • Under long-term pumping conditions for the well when the well is experiencing the lowest dynamic water level and greatest drawdown.

Manual Data Collection
The most common method for detecting methane in water wells is by manually measuring the gas in the headspace of the water well with a gas detection instrument. The variability in methane gas concentrations may require you to sample the well three to four times per year to establish a realistic baseline and provide some insight into background levels of methane gas. However, these measurement methods only capture a very limited amount of data and often miss detecting gas movements.

Real-Time Methane Monitoring
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) cost effective wireless continuous monitoring solutions are now a reality. These systems provide sound scientific data through long-term baseline remote monitoring and real-time analysis. Remote monitoring system transmits real-time data over various wireless telemetry options to a cloud based dashboard allowing experts to analyze problems and abnormal situations. These man portable systems include integrated batteries and solar charging providing long-term deployments in remote locations saving on labor intensive manual data sampling and costly travel. As a result better data collection and measurement will improve our understanding of methane sources and trends, and enable more effective management of opportunities to reduce methane emissions.

RemoteMonitor CH4 Solution

The RemoteMonitor™ CH4 is a cost effective solution for real-time continuous methane gas monitoring. Specifically designed for deployments in remote areas without power or wired Internet over long periods. Methane data is transmitted in real-time over Cellular, WiFi, or Satellite networks to a Cloud Dashboard. Integrated battery and solar charging allows for long term field deployments.

The RemoteMonitor™ CH4records and transmits methane, barometric pressure, and system data in real-time to a web based cloud server which allows instant access to the data via a standard web browser.

Continuous monitoring is vital for accurate quantification and overall understanding of emissions. Manual sampling has been the primary method for measurement. It is difficult to capture the expected fluctuation in methane concentration with this method; therefore it imposes a serious limitation on accurate quantification.

RemoteMonitor CH4

Methane Sensor in Well Headspace

Value of Real-Time Data
Data from the
RemoteMonitor™ CH4 is captured and transmitted to the cloud in real-time creating historic graphs for easy viewing. Methane, atmospheric, and system health data are collected on intervals from 10-minutes to once a day. The cloud portal allows for easy management of devices deployed in the field.

Importance of Atmospheric Data Collection

It is important for the real-time data collection device to capture atmospheric data to predict methane emissions. The rate of methane emissions will be strongly influenced by weather conditions. When barometric pressure is falling methane gas will tend to be forced out of the surrounding formations a short time period as new pressure balances are established.

This variability in data is not accounted for with current quarterly single point data collection methods.


Water Well Headspace Monitoring
The graphic below represents real-time data collected monitoring a water well within range of shale gas wells. The RemoteMonitor CH4 data collection shows the importance of real-time continuous monitoring over manual single-point data collections methods used today. The RemoteMonitor CH4 captured the times the water well pump turned on and moved the methane gas out of the well headspace. Again, this is another example of why continuous monitoring is so important.

Real-Time Alarms
A key feature of the RemoteMonitor CH4 is real-time notifications of alarm conditions. Alarm event levels can easily be set and adjusted through the M2M Connect Cloud portal. At the same time a list of email addresses and phone numbers can be set in the M2M Connect Cloud portal for people receiving the real-time notifications. Real-time notification of dangerous levels of methane gas can prevent disastrous effects of methane gas concentration levels within a dwelling.

Set Alarm Event Parameters

Receive Real-Time Alarm Notifications


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Remote Security Cameras & Environmental Monitoring Systems
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