Exclusive satellite imagery shows near real-time methane emissions

Exclusive satellite imagery shows near real-time methane emissions

During COP27, we’re posting high-resolution images of methane clouds to highlight just how common – and damaging – emissions of powerful greenhouse gases are.

Through COP27, Bloomberg Green will exclusively publish new satellite images of methane releases worldwide, in collaboration with emissions monitoring company GHGSat Inc. Scientists say reducing emissions of methane, which has 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during the first two decades in the atmosphere, is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to cool the planet.

Near Kirtland, New Mexico, USA, November 6, 1:48 p.m. local time

A GHGSat satellite monitored methane emissions near a coal mine Sunday afternoon in New Mexico that the emissions monitoring company said were coming from a mine shaft. The company estimated that the launch was ejecting at a rate of 440.4 kg per hour.

Operational coal mines often emit methane to reduce blast risks. Closed or abandoned coal mines can leach methane for years if not closed properly.

Coal mines that emit methane account for about 30% of the total strong greenhouse gas emissions coming from the energy sector. Scientists view stopping intentional venting of methane and accidental leaks from coal mines and oil and gas infrastructure as some of the least outstanding fruits in the fight against Climate change.

GHGSat said it first detected emissions from the site with a demonstration satellite in 2016. A New Mexico Department of Environment official said Westmoreland Mining LLC is the operator of the facility near the plume. A Westmoreland official did not immediately respond to a request for comment after normal business hours.

Near Lucknow, India, November 5, 1:28 p.m. local time

The satellite image was taken on Saturday and shows a column of methane attributed to a greenhouse gas at a landfill in India. The estimated emission rate was 1,328 kilograms per hour of methane. Landfills tend to be persistent emitters, according to the Montreal-based company.

The discovery highlights how piles of garbage – which generate powerful greenhouse gases when organic matter such as food scraps decompose in the absence of oxygen – release some of the world’s strongest and most persistent methane emissions. Landfills and wastewater are responsible for about 20% of methane emissions from human activity.

Failure to reduce releases from the waste sector could derail global climate goals. Diverting food scraps and other organic matter before they enter landfill is critical to reducing future emissions. The impact of old landfills can be mitigated by aerating garbage heaps and gas capture systems.

near Daqing, ChinaNovember 4 at 1:15 p.m. local time

A satellite on Friday identified six methane emissions in northeastern China near the Daqing oil field, according to GHGSat. Estimated emissions rates ranged from 446 to 884 kilograms per hour and a cumulative rate of 4,477 kilograms per hour. If emissions lasted an hour at this rate, they would have the same short-term climate impact as annual emissions of about 81 we cars.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is responsible for about 30% of global warming. Leaks can occur during extraction and transportation fossil fuel, but methane is also routinely generated as a by-product of oil and coal production, and if operators do not have the infrastructure to take the gas to market, they may release it into the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency has called on oil and gas operators to halt all non-emergency methane venting.

The discoveries highlight the rapidly increasing ability of satellites to identify and track methane almost anywhere in the world, driving a new era of climate transparency in which greenhouse gases will be measured and attributed in near real time to individual and corporate assets.

More companies and organizations are launching multispectral satellites that can detect the unique signature of methane. GHGSat has six satellites in orbit now dedicated to monitoring synthetic methane and aims to launch five more by the end of next year. The nonprofit US Environmental Defense Fund plans to launch MethaneSAT in 2023 and a consortium including California’s Carbon Mapper, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Planet Labs expects to launch two satellites next year.

In 2021, atmospheric methane concentrations recorded the largest year-over-year jump since measurements began four decades ago, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

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