"There’s a new era of transparency coming for oil and gas companies. Satellites are generating images so clear it’s possible to see methane emissions at the asset level."
"Think of them as speed cameras, but for methane. Just like roadside instruments used to identify drivers breaking traffic rules, new powerful satellites are starting to catch oil and gas operators releasing the planet-warming gas into the atmosphere.
At least two dozen high-resolution satellites are expected to be in orbit by the end of this year, quietly tracking the super pollutant that’s invisible to the naked eye. Their sensors are able to detect the natural gas component as it spews from pipelines, unlit flares, storage tanks and compressor stations around the world. The images sent back are crystal clear and leave little doubt about who is responsible for leaks.
Commercial and state interests are driving an acceleration in satellite launches at a time when fossil fuel companies face investor pressure to quantify and slash their emissions, and governments intent on meeting global climate targets seek to benchmark progress. The satellite missions include public and private efforts and are poised to deliver climate transparency on a scale never before seen.
“There’s been strong demand for facility-level information on emissions because it’s directly actionable,’’ said Daniel Varon, a postdoctoral researcher studying atmospheric composition and satellite remote sensing at Harvard University. Varon and peers published an overview of how high- and low-resolution satellites are used to track methane last year."