MethaneSAT is the satellite that will identify methane leaks in real time


Inspenet, October 27, 2023.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Harvard University, and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory plan to launch a satellite called MethaneSAT into orbit early next year. This will be equipped to identify methane emissions in real time and provide the collected data in a database.

The problem we had is that time passed and we did not know how the industry was moving or what happened to the infrastructure, if emissions increased or decreased. And so what we are proposing with the satellite is to go from photographs to video films, that is how I can explain it.”says Daniel Zavala, EDF scientist in a conversation. “I mean, I use that metaphor because the satellite is going to be collecting information continuously. Then, when you have the entire movie, you can see the magnitude of where they come from and how they are moving over time.”.

Methane, along with gases such as carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), plays a fundamental role in climate change. Methane, which acts more immediately, has a global warming potential 80 times greater than carbon dioxide.

MethaneSAT will help the oil industry

The oil and gas industry is among the main generators of methane emissions, and it is precisely in that sector that the EDF has focused its attention for more than ten years. However, other sources, such as livestock farming and landfills, also contribute significantly to these emissions.

It is important to mention that methane is the gas trapped in oil fields that is not collected due to lack of infrastructure or problems in the extraction processes and, instead of being used, it is released into the atmosphere.

The purpose of sending the satellite is to achieve what has been called “climate transparency.” Those responsible for the project have divided the planet into 150 regions, each with an area of ​​200 km, specifically choosing the areas of greatest oil and gas production. In this way, they aim to cover approximately 80% of global oil and gas production.

Something that we have learned in the last decade of working on the issue of methane is that in every place where we directly measure methane emissions, we realize that the problem is bigger than we thought.”he explains in the call. “Being an invisible gas, detecting it allows us to take action”.

The fundamental reason driving the implementation of the satellite is direct and highly relevant, according to Zavala: to make the necessary data available to anyone to demand measures that reduce emissions and provide companies and governments with additional information to address the climate crisis.

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