Mapping Methane: Satellites to Provide Detailed Emissions Data


Feb 19, 2024

Big Picture: A New Era In Emissions Monitoring

Technology is about to meet the challenge of measuring GHG emissions worldwide.

New satellites are now able to obtain global emissions data, monitoring methane and carbon dioxide across the world in real-time. Multiple private and national satellite systems are already in use with more being launched to join networks circling the planet.

Scientists are building a linked global system to collect data on methane emission sources and quantity. A coordinated methane measurement system could reduce the need to collect, correlate, and report data points from drones, planes, and ground-based sensors.

Existing & Upcoming Satellites

NASA manages the Tanager-1 satellite, which can detect, measure, and track sources of methane and carbon dioxide, in addition to the Earth Ventures-Instrument (EVI-4) Mission imaging spectrometer on the International Space Station, which monitors greenhouse gas.

California and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory use the Carbon Mapper hyperspectral satellite network to monitor and measure methane and CO2 sources: Carbon Mapper consortium partners are planning to launch new Tanager satellites in 2024.

The NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) satellite network can also provide methane emissions data.

GHGSat, based in Canada, utilizes a constellation of 12 high-resolution satellites to measure CO2 and methane around the world, with data offered via the online Spectra platform and shared with NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UN, as well as the oil and gas industry.

The ESA-European Commission Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite houses the Tropomi sensor and PRISMA, an Italian Space Agency hyperspectral tool, was launched in 2019. This satellite provides daily global methane concentration measurements that offer insights into emissions hotspots and trends over time.

MethaneSAT is a space-based spectrometer, partially funded by New Zealand’s Space Agency in conjunction with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), with launch planned for March,2024. The satellite is intended to report emissions and source data at regional levels with unprecedented accuracy. Google recently announced the project will also utilize it’s AI to map oil and gas infrastructure.

Japan’s Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellites (GOSAT) provide extensive methane and CO2 data.

China monitors methane with Gaofen-5 and Fen Yung 3G, launched in 2023.

Dealing with the Data

Satellites collect methane data in a variety of resolutions and formats with information from multiple systems cross-referenced and combined to provide accurate estimates of emission type, source, and intensity.

Harvard University has developed a simple algorithm to calculate methane from geostationary satellite images, which are refreshed multiple times each hour.

Climate TRACE is an inventory of greenhouse gas that includes every country, every primary economic sector, and most major GHG sources. It is a free, publicly available database intended to help companies and countries make informed decisions.

Kayrros, a French provider of satellite imagery, offers Methane Watch global methane tracking maps based on European and ISS data.

Informed Decision Making

Methane leaks are frequently undetected or underestimated due to monitoring constraints, especially in remote locations.

Satellite monitoring can now collect data on both specific, individual sources of emissions; track national, regional, and global levels of methane; and identify super-emitters (100kg/CH4 per hour).

Accurate and actionable methane emissions data allow companies and governments to examine leaks, identify methane emissions sources, and prioritize impactful and cost-effective remediation.

Cost-Effective Remediation

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