New High-Tech Imaging Protecting the Planet and Saving Lives

A revolutionary new technology is not only helping to protect the environment, but is now being used to save lives.  Increasingly, thermal or optical gas imaging cameras are being used to detect dangerous fugitive emissions from refineries and other industrial facilities.   An article in today’s WSJ, Making Drilling Rigs Safer, tells the story of a new startup, Rebellion Photonics, started by Allison Lami Sawyer and Robert Kester, who are using thermal imaging to save the lives of those who work in jobs, such as the oil and gas industry, where explosive emissions can kill.  Given the revolutionary potential of this technology, Rebellion Photonics was one of three finalists for “WSJ Startup of the Year.” 

The science behind these new camers is fairly straightforward, enabling us to see infrared wavelengths absorbed by gases not visible to the naked eye.  Here’s the technology being used to find a potentially deadly natural gas leak. 

This technology is transformational on so many levels and, I predict, will revolutionize industry.  Not only because of its huge benefits, but its small price, relative to the adverse impacts from undetected fugitive gases.   These new tools are also now being deployed by EPA enforcement to catch the unwary who, in many cases, are violating environmental laws by not finding and fixing gas leaks in the course production.   It’s not at all uncommon these days to spot EPA enforcement officials, in unmarked cars, siting outside the fence-line with a thermal imaging camera in hand, collecting all the evidence they need.  Feeling somewhat exposed, companies are feeling compelled to install these technologies at their own fence-lines to proactively detect leaks before the regulators do.  Given that the ready availability of this technology is driving enforcement and exposing companies to greater enforcement risks, it will continue to blossom into big business, as reflected in the upcoming annual LDAR-Fugitive Emission Symposium, slated for New Orleans in May 2014.

Oceans At Risk

Below is a sobering story of a yachtsman who, in a recent voyage from Australia to Japan, observed some disturbing telltale067467-200-ocean-pollution signs in the oceans.  While fish were scarce, human debris littering the ocean was apparently plentiful.

An Australian sailor has described parts of the Pacific Ocean as “dead” because of severe overfishing, with his vessel having to repeatedly swerve debris for thousands of kilometres on a journey from Australia to Japan.

Ivan MacFadyen told of his horror at the severe lack of marine life and copious amounts of rubbish witnessed on a yacht race between Melbourne and Osaka. He recently returned from the trip, which he previously completed 10 years ago.

“In 2003, I caught a fish every day,” he told Guardian Australia. “Ten years later to the day, sailing almost exactly the same course, I caught nothing. It started to strike me the closer we got to Japan that the ocean was dead. Continue reading

Humans – are we but a mere earthly plague?

Sir David Attenborough has certainly stirred the pot with his recent name calling. Are humans but a mere “plague on the Earth” only to be controlled through authoritarian rule and human population control?  He’s been resoundingly criticized by some conservatives, such as Wesley J. Smith, who calls Attenborough’s views anti-human radicalism and emblematic of the deep misanthropy movement often associated with modern environmentalism.  According to Smith, “deep misanthropy has helped renew the Malthusian drive to radically depopulate the planet of people as a remedy for environmental ills and human deprivation.”   Smith goes on to conclude that the ongoing convergence of radical Malthusianism with a “renewed advocacy for wealth distribution” is very dangerous with genocidal overtones. Continue reading