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M Squared pioneers laser hydrocarbon leak detection technology

18 May 2012

Scottish technology company M Squared has pioneered a laser-based hydrocarbon detection and imaging system which could spot the tiniest of leaks on production platforms, pipelines and processing plant from hundreds of metres away.

M Squared’s Firefly system constantly scans a selected area with laser beams and is a thousand times more sensitive than current thermal and infra-red imagers
M Squared’s Firefly system constantly scans a selected area with laser beams and is a thousand times more sensitive than current thermal and infra-red imagers

M Squared’s Firefly system constantly scans a selected area with laser beams. This active approach is a thousand times more sensitive than current thermal and infra-red imagers, and can ‘smell’ gas, liquid and solid particles in concentrations of fewer than 10 parts per million.

Last week the company announced investment of £3.85 million from Business Growth Fund (BGF), a £2.5 billion investment fund backed by the UK’s five main banking groups – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, and Standard Chartered.

M Squared is currently in talks with several oil and gas companies to trial the product, which has been proven in the defence industry. Firefly could significantly cut maintenance costs and reduce production loss by helping to spot leaks much more quickly than current technology allows.

Dr Graeme Malcolm, co-founder and CEO of M Squared Lasers, said: “This technology has the capability to tell operators when and where a leak occurs across a much greater area and with greater accuracy than current point sensors or any other existing gas imaging technology.

“The ability to quickly spot and isolate leaks on a platform, pipeline or processing plant is of fundamental importance, both in terms of worker safety and also the financial and reputational damage which can result from a leak. The BGF investment allows us to take the Firefly product to a much wider audience within the oil and gas sector and demonstrate its effectiveness on a larger scale.” 

M Squared Lasers designs and manufactures lasers and photonic optical instruments for applications in frontier science, bio-photonics, defence and oil and gas. M Squared’s Firefly system can be used to detect leaks at production sites, pipelines, petrochemical plants and from storage plants. 

The company was founded in 2005 by Dr. Graeme Malcolm and Dr. Gareth Maker who had previously founded opto-electronics company Microlase in 1992 as a spinout from Strathclyde University. Microlase was acquired by Coherent Inc. in 2000. 

The former chairman of Bookham Technology, Peter Bordui, recently joined M Squared’s board as chairman.

With an office in San Jose, California, the company sells lasers to and collaborates with a range of blue chip partners across Europe, North America and Asia, including Thales, Philips, Osram, Stanford University and the Max Planck Institute.  The company is working closely with leading operators and service providers to validate a wide range of applications for its remote leak detection technology for oil and gas applications.

Duncan Macrae, Edinburgh based Investment Director at BGF, commented: “M Squared’s laser technology represents a genuine step change.  Its products are smaller than others on the market, can be calibrated in minutes rather than hours and can be maintained and upgraded remotely via a web browser.  Customer referencing has been overwhelmingly positive and we are very pleased to be backing such an innovative Scottish business and a first class management team.” 


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