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Clear Vitality 101: Methane-Detecting Satellites

Satellites are rising in prominence as an necessary device in addressing the local weather disaster by recognizing international emissions. There are already dozens of greenhouse gas-detecting satellites in orbit today, and each private and non-private establishments have introduced plans to launch extra sooner or later. Moreover, at COP27, the UN introduced a brand new high-tech, satellite-based international methane detection initiative — The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) — which is able to leverage satellite tv for pc information to alert governments, firms, and operators about giant methane sources to foster fast mitigation.

As satellite tv for pc constellations increase — together with the information and insights they supply — so does the nuance in how they’re used. To match the fitting device with the fitting job, it’s necessary to know what every satellite tv for pc is designed to do, and the way their information may help determination makers meet various however interrelated local weather targets and targets.

Satellite Point source Emissions Completeness Tool (SPECT)

For that reason, RMI’s new report and Satellite Point source Emissions Completeness Tool (SPECT) purpose to assist customers perceive and assess satellite tv for pc “completeness” because it pertains to figuring out and monitoring super-emitters of methane, a greenhouse fuel (GHG) 85 occasions stronger than CO2 on a 20-year timeframe. Right here, we unpack the definition, context, and significance of satellite tv for pc completeness as a brand new and highly effective device within the push to slash local weather air pollution.

Satellites Make Invisible Emissions Seen

A “space race to save climate” is beneath approach, and for good motive. Alarming, record-setting years for atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane name for fast and widespread mitigation. You’ll be able to’t handle what you don’t measure, and making the beforehand invisible emissions seen from house is crucial to halving carbon emissions by 2030 as pledged within the Paris Settlement, and to assembly the International Methane Pledge’s goal to chop methane emissions 30 % by 2030.

Understanding Totally different Satellite tv for pc Capabilities

Totally different satellites are designed to observe various things in numerous methods (an article in Geospatial World dives deep into this very subject). The European Area Company’s TROPOMI, for instance, can map methane, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and numerous aerosols because it passes each day over Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas — a big geographic attain. Its decision can slim down to some sq. miles of Earth. Examine that with the GHGSat-C1 satellite tv for pc, which is designed to supply high-resolution monitoring of commercial services all the way down to the point-source stage (akin to particular oil and fuel compressor stations or pipelines) at 25-meter scale. Or evaluate these with EDF’s MethaneSat, which sits someplace between the 2, offering international, high-resolution protection of methane emissions regionally in addition to all the way down to the extent of oil and fuel services.

Every of those has its use case: A satellite tv for pc like TROPOMI could be successfully used to “true up” a regional or nationwide reported GHG stock, whereas a satellite tv for pc like GHGSat can be utilized to alert an oil and fuel operator to a leak at one in all its services in order that it may be fastened instantly.

Pinpointing Tremendous-Emitters

Whereas regional-, sector-, and asset-level information enabled by satellite tv for pc observations are all necessary, the time-bound urgency of the local weather disaster led RMI to deal with the necessity to pinpoint methane super-emitters. Tremendous-emitters are giant level sources of methane that emit at excessive charges, sometimes 25 kilograms of methane per hour or extra. Tremendous-emitting sources can embrace leaking oil and fuel manufacturing gear, venting coal mines, or landfills and waste websites.

Such sources have traditionally confirmed tough to trace, but they symbolize our greatest near-term alternative to mitigate methane given their disproportionate affect and the truth that many — as soon as recognized — could be addressed shortly and cost-effectively. And new satellites with distinct capabilities are altering the sport.

Defining Completeness & Understanding Its Elements

A brand new metric of satellite tv for pc completeness may help determination makers higher perceive the strengths and limitations of varied satellite tv for pc applied sciences — particularly of their capability to pinpoint methane super-emitters.

Completeness combines three satellite tv for pc parameters in a single metric to quantify the share of world methane level supply emissions that may be detected:

  • Detection sensitivity, or the emissions threshold that may be detected by the satellite tv for pc instrument (often described as an emissions fee of methane mass or quantity beneath sure circumstances)
  • Spatial protection, which is the general geographic space lined by the satellite tv for pc
  • Sampling frequency, or how typically a satellite tv for pc efficiently completes an commentary of a given space

Present satellite tv for pc discussions are likely to focus solely on detection limits and pay little consideration to the opposite system attributes — or deal with these attributes as impartial of each other. When taken collectively, nonetheless, these parameters present higher comparability for the duty of detecting super-emitters.

Making use of Completeness to Determination-Making

Amongst different advantages, the completeness metric may help operators determine which devices supply the most effective prospects of tackling leak detection, information regulators in designing and implementing methane monitoring packages, and increase understanding amongst civil society when evaluating satellites to different measurement applied sciences.

To know how completely different applied sciences stack up in response to the metric of completeness, we encourage you to go to SPECT.

Extra to Come

Methane level sources are extremely complicated, to say nothing of greenhouse fuel emissions extra broadly. Whereas the completeness metric is efficacious for this use case, we hope to construct upon this work by addressing further use instances and broadening consciousness of how numerous applied sciences can be utilized to enhance international local weather intelligence. By making emissions sources extra seen, growing information accessibility, and performing to mitigate these emissions, we are able to obtain fast progress on this decisive decade for our local weather.

By Frances Reuland, Sasha Bylsma

 © 2023 Rocky Mountain Institute. Printed with permission. Initially posted on RMI 

REPORT | 2023
Intel from Above: Spotting Methane Super-Emitters with Satellites


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