Electromagnetic and Optical Sensor Technologies for Natural Gas Storage Safety Monitoring

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Berkeley, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Update

The project has completed the majority of the planned lab and field experiments, including the long-term monitoring at the PG&E gas storage site and controlled experiments with subcontractor C-FER. The remaining tasks of the project include long-term, campaign mode monitoring at the PG&E site to study long-term effects post tubing installation, and a lab-based shearing experiment where a fiber optic sensor is installed behind a casing that will be subjected to shearing forces.

The Issue

Over the operational life of wellbores, the borehole casing and cement are subject to significant mechanical stress and to fluid and microbial induced corrosion and damages. This is exacerbated in underground gas storage (UGS) facilities due to the high operating pressure and multi-decadal injection and withdrawal operations. Currently, wellbore integrity monitoring mostly relies on downhole logging, which is intrusive and expensive to conduct. These limitations render the downhole wireline tools incapable of providing frequent, real-time monitoring data. As a result, it is difficult to predict the borehole degradation trajectory, which can provide early warning of potential borehole failures.

Project Innovation

This project has developed, lab tested, and field demonstrated an integrated and real-time UGS wellbore operation and integrity monitoring technology based on distributed electromagnetic (EM) and fiber optic reflectometry methods. The technical approach combines novel guided-wave EM Time Domain Reflectometry (EM-TDR) with Brillouin scattering based Optical Time Domain Reflectometry (BO-TDR) methods for distributed monitoring of NGS borehole conditions over the entire length. The combination of these two technologies provided novel diagnostic signatures of the boreholes and, when assisted with autonomous and real time visualization capabilities, can significantly improve the current state-of-the-art for UGS borehole operation monitoring.

Project Goals

Develop the EM-TDR and BO-TDR approach for real time NGS borehole operation monitoring.
Demonstrate the capability of EM-TDR and BO-TDR approach for NGS borehole monitoring at an NGS field facility.

Project Benefits

Adoption of the real time TDR technologies for UGS monitoring can promote safe and reliable energy supplies from underground gas storage reserviors. Real time operation status monitoring based on EM-TDR and BO-TDR technologies can significantly improve UGS infrastructure resiliency and reliability and minimize potential methane leaks via compromised boreholes. This can help optimize maintenance priorities to minimize loss and interruption to energy supplies. Future developments of real time TDR based UGS monitoring that connects to operation controls can enable autonomous emergency shutoffs to increase their safety and resilience toward unpredictable damages from natural hazards or other events.

Lower Costs


The project has the potential to lower energy costs by ensuring the safety and stability of underground gas storage supplies.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The project will promote environmental sustainability and public health via real time monitoring to reduce potential methane leaks from underground gas storage borehole leakages as well as safety hazards due to catastrophic borehole failures.

Increase Safety


The technology will enhance underground gas storage reliability and safety by enabling real time monitoring of operation conditions and notification of abnormalities to facility operators.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Yuxin Wu

Staff Scientist, Department Head
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Project Member

Kenichi Soga

Donald H. McLaughlin Professor in Mineral Engineering and a Chancellor’s Professor
UC Berkeley



Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Pacific Gas and Electric Company


The Regents of the University of California on behalf of the Berkeley campus


C-FER Technologies


Trident Environmental & Engineering, Inc.


Match Partners


Pacific Gas and Electric Company




Contact the Team