Many organisations measure and report on their emissions performance - to comply with regulation, to benefit from selling carbon credits, or on a purely voluntary basis. As the number and scope of such measurements grow there is an increasing need for consistency and confidence. This is particularly challenging in sectors such as agriculture and forestry, and for new processes such as carbon capture and storage. It is even harder to quantify real carbon savings delivered in emission reduction projects and emissions embedded in products and services.
Carbon capture and storage
The Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL is a world leader in atmospheric measurements. With industrial partners, we are developing a range of techniques to detect fugitive emissions from carbon capture and storage sites. These techniques include optical measurements for emissions escaping above ground, as well as acoustic and pH measurements for those underwater.
Accuracy in carbon markets
Accurate greenhouse gas monitoring is critical to enabling a fair and open carbon market. While the Centre develops and delivers various accredited techniques to monitor greenhouse gases, we also crucially provide the standard gas mixtures against which those techniques and the resultant data can be calibrated to ensure traceability and accuracy of the results.
Greenhouse gas emissions monitoring service
The Centre is working with Astrium Services and the UK National Centre for Earth Observation to develop a service that estimates greenhouse gas emissions from concentrations in the atmosphere. The service will bring together measurements from space, air and ground-based sensors, as well as weather data, to build a complete picture of greenhouse gas emissions over specific areas such as cities or countries.
(A pilot project will monitor the emissions over London and could contribute to the Carbon Strategy for the 2012 London Olympic Games.)
Factoring sustainability into product design
NPL coordinates the Environmental Materials Information Technology (EMIT) consortium, which has developed an eco-design software tool to assess the environmental impact of materials at the product design stage. The tool integrates with computer-aided design systems, allowing manufacturers to choose which materials go into their products, based on environmental credentials such as their carbon footprint or energy and water use.
Mapping emissions in 3D
Our Differential Absorption Lidar (DIAL) facility can provide rapid, accurate measurements of airborne emissions, up to 3 km away, and use these to generate a 3D emissions map. This means that it can not only detect the emissions, but also locate their source. The DIAL facility is mobile and was recently used to detect the source of benzene leaks in the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Making an IMPACT
NPL is using Digital Image Correlation – the comparison of ultra-high-resolution digital photographs – to monitor power plant components and characterise new materials as part of a carbon abatement project called IMPACT (Innovative Materials, Design and Monitoring of Power Plants to accommodate Carbon Capture). This will help reduce emissions by enabling power plants to operate at the highest temperatures, maximising efficiency without compromising safety.
We are working with government departments and companies wishing to purchase or sell carbon credits, as well as international agencies establishing accounting frameworks. We are looking at areas such as carbon capture and storage, building performance and life-cycle carbon emissions.
Get involved with the work of the Centre for Carbon Measurement.