Global fossil fuel operations have emitted about 120 million tonnes of global warming gas in 2020.

According to peer-reviewed research, scientists have for the first time used satellite data to detect a large leak in the sea of ​​powerful greenhouse gas methane.

The findings add an important tool to the expanding space arsenal to pinpoint previously invisible methane jets from the oil and gas industry.

Global fossil fuel operations will emit about 120 million tonnes of global warming gas in 2020, almost a 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 have identified a jet from an oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico that dumped about 40,000 tonnes in a 17-day period in December.

The platform, near Campeche in southern Mexico, is one of the largest oil fields in the country.

“Our results show how satellites can detect methane jets from offshore infrastructure,” said senior author Luis Guenter, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

“This opens the door to systematic monitoring of industrial emissions from individual offshore platforms.”

Satellite-based methods for detecting methane leaks over land have developed rapidly over the past few years, awkwardly training spotlights on regulators and industry.

But there are no equivalent techniques for leaks from offshore oil and gas operations, which account for about 30 percent of world production.

Although much less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, it is about 28 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas for centuries.

Although far less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, it is about 28 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas within a century.

Huge short-term potential

So far, the ability of ocean water to absorb shortwave infrared radiation has limited the amount of reflected light reaching space sensors.

Guanter and his colleagues overcame this problem with a new method for measuring solar radiation bouncing off the surface of the water, called a sunshine monitoring mode.

Methane is responsible for approximately 30 percent of global temperatures so far.

Although it is much less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, it is about 28 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas within a century. For a period of 20 years, it is 80 times more powerful.

Methane stays in the atmosphere for only a decade, compared to hundreds or thousands of years for CO2.

This means that a sharp reduction in emissions could reduce by several tenths of a degree Celsius projected global warming by the middle of the century, helping to maintain the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in average Earth temperature to 1.5 C, according to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). ).

Last year saw a record jump in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere, US government scientists said in April.

Methane is generated by the production, transport and use of fossil fuels, but also by the decomposition of organic matter in wetlands and as a by-product of the digestion of livestock in agriculture.

At last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, more than 100 nations agreed on a global promise of methane to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030. But several major methane emissions – including China, Russia, Iran and India – failed to sign.

Methane emissions detected over an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico

More info:
Itziar Irakulis-Loitxate et al, Satellites open an event with ultra-methane emissions from an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico, Letters on Environmental Science and Technology (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acs.estlett.2c00225

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Climate: methane leakage into the sea observed from space (2022, 12 June), extracted on 12 June 2022 from

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