Google map of West Texas oilfield   Project Astra Logo

A first-of-its-kind network of sensors that will monitor emissions across an oil and gas production region with multiple operators may soon revolutionize the way methane leaks are detected. A new partnership led by The University of Texas at Austin and bringing together Environmental Defense Fund, ExxonMobil, Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and Pioneer Natural Resources Company, aims to demonstrate a novel approach to measuring methane emissions from oil and gas production sites, using advanced technologies to help minimize releases into the atmosphere. The collaboration, named Project ASTRA, will establish a sensor network that will leverage advances in methane-sensing technologies, data sharing and data analytics to provide near continuous monitoring. It will allow producers to find and fix significant methane releases at or below the cost of current monitoring technologies, most of which measure emissions only on an annual or semi-annual basis.

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image of unknown smoke making a skull head coming from a toaster

We spend most of our lives inside, where air quality has received little scrutiny.

Illustration by Daniel Savage
  The Hidden Air Pollution In Our Homes
From The New Yorker by Nicola Twilley April 1, 2019

Food magazines typically celebrate Thanksgiving in mid-July, bronzing turkeys and crimping piecrust four months in advance. By that time last year, Marina Vance, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder, had already prepared two full Thanksgiving dinners for more than a dozen people. Vance studies air quality, and, last June, she was one of two scientists in charge of Homechem, a four-week orgy of cooking, cleaning, and emissions measurement, which brought sixty scientists and four and a half million dollars’ worth of high-tech instrumentation to a ranch house on the engineering campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The two Thanksgiving dinners were the climax of the project and represented what Vance called a “worst-case scenario.” She suspected that the Pilgrims’ harvest celebration, as it is observed in twenty-first-century America, qualified as an airborne toxic event.

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Melanie Merrick Receives Department Research Poster Award


Melanie Merrick receives the UT Austin McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Research Award for Best Chemical Engineering Research Poster at the Graduate and Industry Networking GAIN 2018 event.

photo of grad student melanie standing by her poster  

Melanie Merrick Places 2nd in the and Sustainability Poster Category at UT Energy Week 2018


Melanie Merrick places 2nd in the Environmental and Sustainability Poster Category at UT Energy Week 2018.