MethaneSAT: Satellite launched to track down leaks of potent greenhouse gas

News Excerpt:

A new satellite, MethaneSAT, backed by Google, was launched on a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket to track and measure methane emissions at a global scale.

About MethaneSAT:

  • MethaneSat is developed by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in partnership with the New Zealand Space Agency and a consortium of universities.
  • MethaneSAT is the only known high-precision area-source detection system for methane monitoring.
  • The satellite will track leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas companies. 
  • It will orbit the planet 15 times a day to capture unprecedented amounts of data on methane emissions from human and natural sources.
  • Google has partnered with the EDF to create its first global methane map by the end of the year, ushering in a new era of climate accountability.
    • Google will map oil and gas infrastructure using the same AI technology that it uses to identify trees, crosswalks, and intersections from satellite imagery.
    • Then, the company will overlay MethaneSAT data onto the map to reveal where leaks are coming from.
    • The data collected by MethaneSAT will be made public for free in near real-time. 
    • This will allow stakeholders and regulators to take action to reduce methane emissions.

Significance of MethaneSAT:

  • Its launch marks the beginning of a new age of accountability for the energy sector.
  • More than 150 countries have signed a Global Methane Pledge to cut their gas emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.
  • During COP28, more than 50 companies committed to virtually eliminating methane emissions and routine flaring. 
    • MethaneSAT will help them meet these targets.


  • Methane is an invisible but strong greenhouse gas.
    • A critical driver of climate change: When it comes to trapping heat inside Earth's atmosphere, methane is over 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
    • According to the UNEP, methane has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.
    • It is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.
    • Methane is responsible for 30% of global heating since the Industrial Revolution.
  • The gas also contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone.
    • Ozone is a colourless and highly irritating gas that forms just above the Earth's surface. 
    • According to a 2022 report, exposure to ground-level ozone could contribute to one million premature deaths yearly.
  • Stemming methane leaks is the fastest single way to curb the escalation of average global temperatures.
  • Reducing oil and gas methane emissions by 45% till 2025 would deliver the same 20-year benefit to the climate as immediately closing 1,300 coal-fired power plants.


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