Frost Methane mitigates methane gas emissions from Arctic Circle permafrost

Methane, representing about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, comes from one of two sources: diffuse or point. Diffuse emissions come from large, non-point sources such as livestock. As the name implies, point emissions can be traced to a specific source such as smokestacks, oil refineries, auto plants – or the 9 million square miles of permafrost located in the Arctic Circle.

Arctic permafrost contains the remains of countless carbon-based plants and animals that froze before decomposing. As a result, nearly 1.5 trillion tons of carbon is currently trapped in the permafrost. Unfortunately, rising Arctic temperatures are causing permafrost to melt, releasing a significant amount of this stored carbon into the atmosphere in the form of methane.

This is where Frost Methane comes in. Founded in 2019, Frost Methane’s goal is to mitigate point source methane emissions for increased safety and environmental benefit. They are currently focused on collecting the methane trapped in Arctic permafrost and converting it to less harmful carbon dioxide.

Why convert methane to carbon dioxide?
Methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and there is a substantial amount of methane in the 9 million square miles of permafrost located in the northern hemisphere. Global warming is also hitting these regions particularly hard. Over the past two centuries, global temperatures have risen 1 to 1.5oC, while Arctic temperatures have risen almost 3.5oC. Converting methane to carbon dioxide is therefore an effective way to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Challenge: Ensuring equipment can stay in the field for 5 years without in-person servicing or calibration

Frost Methane technology, developed in part with support from the Department of Energy, is able to collect and measure the flow rate and concentration of methane and then combust it into carbon dioxide. Their automated monitoring and reporting system will enable them to set up equipment at the remote sites where most point sources of methane are found.

All the equipment the Frost Methane team deploys must be robust enough to survive winter in the Arctic. Due to the remote location of the deployment site, the team plans for all devices to stay in the field for 5 years without the need for in-person calibration or servicing.

Solution: High-accuracy calibration of methane collection equipment

The team is using an Alicat portable Whisper mass flow meter to ensure equipment is ready to go upon deployment. This device is able to calibrate their flow measurement instruments in the field with accuracy to ±0.75% of reading, meeting both the carbon market’s ±5% accuracy requirement and Frost Methane’s own ±1% requirement.

Results: Frost Methane deploys the first methane-capture technology

Frost Methane and collaborators from University of Alaska Fairbanks tested their methane-capture technology for the first time on August 13, 2021. The team deployed their equipment at a lake in the Arctic Circle, about 67.25 degrees north. Laughlin Barker, Frost Methane’s Senior Embedded Systems Engineer, described the lake as, “basically a Jacuzzi, there’s so much natural gas.”

Frost Methane is planning to reinvest the carbon offsets earned through this early-stage deployment for future deployments. Their long-term goal is to work with landowners and partners to build and support infrastructure allowing the captured methane to be used directly for electricity generation.

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