CHARLOTTE – Duke Energy is working with Accenture and Microsoft to develop a novel technology platform with the intent of measuring baseline methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems with a high level of accuracy in near-real-time.

The news comes after a new UN report on cilmate change called for immediate steps to reduce methane emissions.

“Cutting methane is the single biggest and fastest strategy for slowing down warming,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington, D.C., told Reuters when asked about the UN report.

The Charlotte-headquartered utility announced the deal in a statement this week.  Once deployed, the company expects the new platform to increase the speed of a field response team’s ability to identify and repair methane leaks along distribution lines and systems.

Starting in August, the companies will execute “monthly satellite captures” in Greenville, South Carolina.  Implementation of the new technology platform could come as soon as October, Duke Energy said in the statement.

Duke Energy noted it has been testing satellite detection capabilities since 2020, and concluded: “satellite detection has the potential to be more accurate and an expedient way to locate leaks when compared to traditional leak survey methods such as aerial and foot patrols.”


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“This platform will re-imagine how natural gas local distribution companies calculate methane emissions and perform leak surveys and improve the expediency in which leaks may be repaired, resulting in dramatically lower methane emissions,” said Brian Weisker, senior vice president and chief operations officer, natural gas at Duke Energy.  “The current industry standard uses calculated data to report methane emissions, which leaves room for inaccuracies when it comes to actual methane levels.”

The platform will be based on Microsoft Azure, and Accenture, in collaboration with the joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft known as Avanade, will integrate additional capacity based on experience in analytics, AI, and cloud infrastructure, the statement noted.

“Our work with Duke Energy and Microsoft demonstrates how technology, innovation and artificial intelligence can help address sustainability challenges,” said Mark Schuler, a managing director in Accenture’s utilities practice. “Together, we can show others how to achieve their sustainability goals and make it an integral part of delivering value for all stakeholders, and not as one-off practices.”

Duke Energy previously announced that it would be net-zero with regard to its methane emissions by 2030.  According to recent estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane makes up nearly 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions every year.  The U.S. energy sector is one of the largest sources of methane emissions, according to the statement issued by Duke Energy.


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