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Methane Satellite Will Map And Monitor Leaks On Earth

Google has partnered with the US Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on a project using satellite imagery to identify and monitor sources of methane emissions.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, produced from oil and gas, landfill, agriculture and other sources. It is extremely potent in the short term, having more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 in the first 20 years after reaching the atmosphere.

A major partnership will set out to track sources of methane emissions associated with oil and gas operations. It involves the EDF, Google, Harvard University, the Smithsonian and the New Zealand Space Agency, among others.

According to the EDF: “Methane from fossil fuel operations, agriculture and other industries has a massively outsized influence on the climate. It’s responsible for about 30% of today’s global warming. But finding these invisible emissions is tough, and we don’t have a clear picture of where they are or who’s responsible for them.”

The MethaneSAT mission, due to launch in March, will be one of several satellites responsible for finding the sources of these emissions. According to the EDF, it is the only methane-detecting satellite to provide a view of the ‘whole picture’, orbiting Earth 15 times a day and measuring pollution from millions of sources.

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Google said that it would create a map of oil and gas infrastructure, using artificial intelligence to identify components such as oil tanks. Emissions data from MethaneSAT would then be overlaid with the map to help researchers understand what elements of oil and gas infrastructure are most responsible for methane leaks.

“Infrastructure changes rapidly, and keeping a map like this up to date requires constant input. But this is something that we in our maps and geo organisation, we’ve built up a lot of expertise,” Yael Maguire of Google’s Geo Sustainability team, told reporters. “We think this information is incredibly valuable for energy companies, researchers and the public sector to anticipate and mitigate methane emissions.”

The data will be made available through analytics platform Google Earth Engine later this year. According to the EDF, making the data public will ensure that “companies, governments, and advocates can speed up emissions cuts, track progress, and hold polluters truly accountable”.

At the most recent UN climate conference, COP28, over 150 countries signed a ‘global methane pledge’, providing extra funds to help shift towards the target of cutting methane emissions at least 30% by the end of the decade.

The EDF is among the groups to have produced research demonstrating that many countries are likely to be significantly underestimating methane emissions from leaks in oil and gas infrastructure.

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Source: E&T


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