Re-imagining how methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are tracked and analyzed to drive large-scale emission reductions

Project Astra

Project Astra is a global collaborative effort at the forefront of methane detection aimed at reducing methane emissions. The team is developing an innovative sensor network that will harness advances in methane-sensing technologies, data sharing, and data analytics to provide near-continuous emissions monitoring across oil and gas facilities in the Permian Basin, the world’s largest oil field, and feed information into decision tools.

This first-of-its-kind high-frequency smart monitoring system will transform the way methane emissions are detected—identifying sites with leaks, feeding data to a central system that can quickly notify field response crews and speed repair, increasing frequency of inspections, and providing an affordable, efficient solution to help reduce total methane emissions that contribute to climate warming.

The project, led by The University of Texas at Austin, includes Chevron, the Environmental Defense Fund, ExxonMobil, GTI Energy, Microsoft, Pioneer Natural Resources Company, and Schlumberger, and aims to demonstrate a new approach using advanced technologies to help minimize releases into the atmosphere.

Partner Roles

UT-Austin—Scientific/research lead for the project

GTI Energy—Deep technical and industry expertise for proving commercial viability

EDF—Technical expertise to drive environmental outcomes

Industry members—Deep technical and operational expertise for feasibility testing

Why is this work so important?

Methane is a considerable driver of near-term climate change, with a global warming potential 84-86 times that of carbon dioxide on a 20-year basis. It’s an important priority for reduction because, in addition to its potency, it degrades in the atmosphere after 10-20 years, meaning that action today can be felt in near future. According to the U.S. EPA, natural gas and petroleum systems contributed 30% to U.S. methane emissions.

The United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and a major exporter. With more than 1 million existing oil and gas wells in the U.S., comprehensive and continuous monitoring of well sites and associated infrastructure is critical to one day ultimately prevent methane emissions.

Methane leaks can occur anywhere and anytime. If unknown or undetected, these leaks can persist for extended periods and result in significant emissions.

Project Astra is about testing a technology concept that can scale continuous monitoring to the entire industry – for companies big and small – at or below the cost of today’s monitoring technologies.

The team is developing an innovative high-frequency network of sensors that communicate measurements remotely, offering automated regional monitoring. Once operational, this kind of smart digital network would allow producers and regulators to pinpoint methane releases for mitigation and offer the ability to easily increase the frequency of measuring.

We’ve assembled the right innovators to work on this multi-year project, and we are committed to rigorously testing the best solutions that can deliver the fastest, least costly reductions and demonstrate the technologies with the potential to help an entire industry improve its methane performance.


Technical Project Phases

Sensor inter-comparison

Test sensor technology head-to-head to find out which existing technologies are suitable for this application under real-world operating conditions

Digital methane challenge—digital twin and network design

Develop a virtual simulation of the region to design the network and analytics

Pilot project

Identify and demonstrate to the industry a new methane detection innovation using real assets in the Permian Basin

Learn more at the Project Astra University of Texas-Austin technical website

Building a community of producers and other stakeholders

Collaboration matters as we move toward widespread emission prevention. Project Astra’s interconnected sensor network can serve as a regional resource for adoption by all. Neighboring operators will be able to leverage a common network to find and fix methane releases. In order to design this network, we will need help from a community of producers.

We want to hear from you. Whether your organization is small or large, independent or integrated, your input is important. Sharing your needs and concerns will help Project Astra optimize a solution that makes sense for everyone. The team will be hosting regular webinars aimed at keeping producers informed and incorporating the community’s needs into the design of the  project.

Project Astra offers a proof of concept to demonstrate an entirely new approach that will test the technical, operational, and environmental potential of an automated network of methane sensors over a region in the Permian Basin

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Opportunities to invest in breakthrough emissions reduction technology

Asset owners and their investors are facing unprecedented pressure to take action to address the business and climate risks posed by methane emissions within their portfolios. Data provided by Project Astra will help investors and operators alike take decisive action to improve methane management practices while building value. Speed and scale of deployment will be critical to making Project Astra’s network widely available.

Learn about engaging in early deployments for rapid scaling of the solution and commercialization of the promising new Project Astra emission prevention system


Path to Pilot Newsletter



Methane Sensor Inter-comparison Completed

Seven promising new methane sensor technologies were deployed and field-tested in The West Texas Methane Showdown, a pilot program that was launched in October 2020 and was completed in June 2021.

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Chevron, Microsoft, and Schlumberger Sign Memorandum of Understanding

Three new companies join original partners EDF, ExxonMobil, GTI Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources, and the University of Texas.

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Collaboratory to Advance Methane Science to Fund Development of Pilot Region Digital Twins

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Simulation of atmospheric concentrations in the Project Astra pilot region will guide network design and data analytics. Members of CAMS who are supporting the effort include Cheniere, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Pioneer Natural Resources, Sempra LNG and SIEP, Inc. (Shell).

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