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Satellites Recruited in the Latest Effort to Detect Methane Emissions

September 4th, 2020

There is broad scientific consensus that, at current levels, carbon dioxide (CO2) is having a deleterious effect on the global climate. Yet other common compounds pose far greater risk. One of these is methane, a byproduct of agriculture and fracking, which is 84 times more potent CO2, difficult to detect, and even harder to remove from the atmosphere. According to the EPA, about 28% of the 342 metric tons of man-made methane emitted each year happens from O&G drilling, flaring, and pipeline leaks. Flaring is the practice of burning off excess natural gas which consists primarily of methane and other hydrocarbons. In the US much of this occurs in the Permian Basin and other shale plays. 

While detection technologies, including IoT sensors, UAVs, and predictive cloud apps, enable operators to monitor unplanned emissions on the ground, a new breed of satellites capable of scanning entire oil basins, is helping to identify the largest plumes. Equipped with the hi-res imaging cameras, satellite data are finding their way into federated databases which in turn feed hungry multi-domestic, multiple stakeholder analytics platforms. Data democratization is making possible the holistic public-private partnerships required to tackle global environmental initiatives at scale.

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