Apogee Scientific

by Chris Meehan on September 11, 2016, 09:20 am MDT 

by Chris Meehan on September 11, 2016, 09:20 am MDT 

www.apogee-sci.com
Englewood, Colorado
Founded: 1993
Privately owned
Employees: 6

 

 

 

 

 

Founder and President James Armstrong's company finds gas leaks for the energy sector and industrial users.

"I built this company for several things: to save the environment, to save resources, to save money, and things of that nature," says Armstrong.

Apogee Scientific is an applied R&D firm that primarily provides monitoring equipment to the energy sector. Its vanguard product is a unique, Colorado-made leak detection system (LDS) that helps utilities, oil and gas companies, landfills, and other industrial users detect and distinguish methane, carbon dioxide, or hydrocarbon leaks in real time. It offers a distinct advantage over most LDS systems that can take days to deliver results and they don't offer the clarity of what type of pollutant is being released.

Apogee has also patented technologies that monitor flue gas at coal-fired power plants to measure mercury concentration in the gas. "Anybody who has a continuous monitoring system is using some form of the patent we have and is still in effect," Armstrong says.

However, as natural gas has grown in popularity and interest in coal power has waned, the company is more focused on the LDS as well as other thermal imaging and other technologies that it supplies to the Department of Defense and other federal clients.

"We deliver good solutions to people in a cost-effective way and they come back to us," Armstrong contends. I keep track of every proposal written since 1993 . . . we have a 66 percent success rate in getting awards." He adds that the company also sees a lot of repeat business.

"Relative to the LDS, that's what really saves the environment. It saves the resource of natural gas, saves money for the people who use it, and it saves jobs. Ultimately, it protects health."

 

"We measure three gases simultaneously at detection limits of 0.25 parts per million. We actually run it lower than that, at 0.1 parts per million, but 0.25 parts per million is plenty sensitive and we measure very quickly. We take 50 samples a second. You can drive at highway speeds or if you're in a helicopter you can fly at reasonable speeds," Armstrong explains. The system can detect most leaks within 100 feet.

"The system has two mirrors in it and we have an infrared light that goes back and forth 40 times, which gives us a pass length that allows us to go those detection limits that are pretty phenomenal for this instrument," Armstrong says.

"You get instant information where the leaks are, you can quantify them, and you can tell whether it's a class 1, 2, or 3 leak," Armstrong says. By determining the class of leak the company can decide if it needs to be repaired immediately, if it can wait a little bit, or if the site should be monitored before taking action.

Apogee developed its LDS in 1998. "The current version of it has been around since 2001 or 2002. We've embellished it quite bit and continue to make upgrades to the software and all. The basic concept is the same. It's amazing to me that no one else has done it and has embraced it like we have for what we do," Armstrong says.

The devices are built to last, says Armstrong. "The very first beta unit we had of this design [in 2001] went to the City of Colorado Springs Utilities." He says the beta unit still works. Moreover, when the utility purchased the LDS it had two or three trucks and was roughly six months behind schedule.

"When they got our beta unit they got ahead six months," Armstrong asserts. "They bought two more. These units are built like battleships."

While the units are made to operate in harsh conditions, they're extremely precision instruments. As such the company maintains them for a small fee annually. "We clean them up, we re-certify them and we provide updates on the software," Armstrong states.

Challenges: "To get the story out about what we do and how well we do it. Convince people there are ways to do things smartly," Armstrong says.

Opportunities: "Better adoption," says Armstrong, noting that Apogee makes about six to 10 LDS units a year. "The more we make of these, we can get the price point down from where it is [$63,750]."

Needs: Thoughtful, sensible regulation. "Utilities don't mind finding solutions," says Armstrong. "But tell us what the regulations are and don't keep changing them."

 

Nine Executives Complete CCIA's Signature Energy Fellows Institute (EFI) Program

The fifth annual class of the Energy Fellows Institute has just completed the intensive program, a busy week full of interactive presentations with energy experts, conversations with heavy hitters in the cleantech sector, as well as visits to key regional energy generators and labs, such as the CSU Energy Institute in Fort Collins, below.

From L to R: Tony Williams, Jim Corboy, Dave Watson, Paul Farnan, Emily Applegate, Craig Swiatek, Jim Armstrong, Sean McCabe, Jennifer Ramsey

From L to R: Tony Williams, Jim Corboy, Dave Watson, Paul Farnan, Emily Applegate, Craig Swiatek, Jim Armstrong, Sean McCabe, Jennifer Ramsey

The Fellows also visited the Cherokee Generating Station, which is transitioning from a traditional coal powered plant to cleaner energy technologies.

CCIA's Energy Fellows Institute is an executive immersion program providing a platform for the exchange of ideas, opportunity, skills and community to develop leaders ready to succeed in world changing advanced energy businesses.

Colorado companies are solving the oil and gas industry’s methane problem

Colorado’s energy boom is bringing a new prosperity to our state by providing skilled jobs, contributing tax revenue, driving economic growth, and creating jobs. In fact, we produce so much natural gas that we actually export about three-quarters across the U.S.

 

When done right, natural gas represents the cleanest of the fossil fuels – especially when it comes to carbon pollution. In fact, the demand for natural gas is being driven by a larger national demand for cleaner energy. But there’s a problem – when not done right natural gas development can also leak a huge amount of methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and a powerful pollutant itself.

These leaks of methane and other associated smog-forming pollutants are linked to poor air quality, a warming climate, lost revenue for local and state governments, American energy gone to waste, and lost profits for energy companies. Nationwide the oil and gas industry is currently releasing 7 million tons of methane waste each year, representing more than $1 billion worth of wasted natural gas at today’s prices.

Fortunately, there are solutions available and ready to be deployed today to find and fix these methane leaks. Companies in the oil and gas industry and methane mitigation field are constantly developing better, more innovative and effective technologies to solve the problem of methane waste.

This is a vibrant and growing industry flourishing across the country and particularly here in Colorado – which Datu Research recognized as the No. 3 state in the nation for clusters of methane mitigation companies.

Part of the reason for this innovation is that Colorado became the first state to directly regulate this methane waste. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are developing their own rules to meet a target of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry 40 to 45 percent nationwide in the next decade.

It is critical that new rules allow flexibility for companies to embrace the newest technology as it becomes available and stay on the cutting edge of solutions.

Colorado-developed, manufactured and deployed technologies like the ones developed by our companies are helping capture fugitive methane emissions while also ensuring oil and gas production is done in the cleanest, most efficient, least wasteful manner possible.

Recent years have seen dramatic advances in the methane mitigation field due to dedicated efforts of entrepreneurs and other partners. As new, better and cheaper solutions come to market they could lead to a win-win for all stakeholders – for the companies that want to maximize returns, for local governments that want to maximize revenue, for the communities that want better air quality, and for all of us as we keep this potent greenhouse gas in the pipes.

It is critical that policies on methane waste reduction technology embrace the power of the marketplace and harness the best of American innovation.

Taking the lead on addressing methane waste has put Colorado on a path toward a cleaner and more efficient oil and gas industry. As EPA and BLM work to finalize their own methane reduction rules, it is critical that they offer a clear, rapid pathway for the current and forthcoming solutions that our growing industry is here to offer.


ROBERT GILHOOLY | BLOOMBERG

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