Offshore methane gas leak spotted from space
GS Paper - 3 (Environment)
Scientists have for the first time used satellite data to detect a major offshore leak of the potent greenhouse gas methane, according to peer-reviewed research. The findings add a crucial tool to an expanding space-based arsenal for pinpointing previously invisible methane plumes from the oil and gas industry.
More about new Study
- Fossil fuel operations globally emitted about 120 million tonnes of the planet-warming gas in 2020, nearly one-third of all methane emissions from human activity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
- The new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters identified a plume from an oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico that spewed some 40,000 tonnes over a 17-day period in December.
- The platform, near Campeche in southern Mexico, is in one of the country's biggest oil producing fields.
- The study demonstrates how satellites can detect methane plumes from offshore infrastructure. It opens the door to systematic monitoring of industrial emissions from individual offshore platforms.
- Satellite-based methods for spotting methane leaks over land have developed rapidly in the last few years, training an uncomfortable spotlight on regulators and industry.
- But equivalent techniques have been lacking for leaks from offshore oil and gas operations, which account for about 30 percent of global production.
- Methane is responsible for roughly 30 percent of the global rise in temperatures to date.
- Methane lingers in the atmosphere for only a decade, compared to hundreds or thousands of years for CO2.
- Methane is generated by the production, transport and use of fossil fuels, but also from the decay of organic matter in wetlands, and as a by-product of livestock digestion in agriculture.
- At last year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, more than 100 nations agreed under the Global Methane Pledge to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2030. But several major methane emitters -- including China, Russia, Iran and India -- failed to sign.