California and NASA, with the backing of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, unveiled a $100 million effort on April 15 to pinpoint large emissions of greenhouse gases from individual sources like power plants and oil refineries from space.
The partnership between the state, U.S. space agency, satellite company Planet and four other institutions will launch its first two satellites in 2023. The technology could help increase pressure on polluting industries—already targeted by environmental activists and investors for their contribution to climate change—to find and plug leaks.
The initiative is part of the growing use of space-age technology to locate big sources of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Scientists say identifying methane sources is crucial to making the drastic emissions cuts needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The coalition is operating under a non-profit organization called Carbon Mapper that is funded by philanthropic groups including Bloomberg's.
The Carbon Mapper satellites will use technology developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to see and measure emissions at the scale of individual facilities for the first time. Other satellite technology has monitored greenhouse gases over larger geographic areas.
The data will be shared publicly, but companies that own and operate emitting infrastructure can subscribe to get access to the data sooner, allowing them to address leaks quickly.
"It will be transformational," Riley Duren, a researcher at the University of Arizona and Carbon Mapper's CEO, said in an interview. "There is significant interest in using this type of technology... to support the leak detection and repair enterprise."
The satellite effort is an outgrowth of surveys JPL completed for the state of California using methane-tracking planes. Those identified small numbers of methane "super-emitters" in the oil and gas, waste and agriculture industries that have an outsized contribution to methane in the atmosphere.
While operators in the Rockies unconventional plays added to the U.S. rig count this past week, the Eagle Ford Shale lost 10 rigs. Meanwhile, the Permian Basin RRC Dist. 7C lost four rigs and Dist. 8 added five.
Proven geological reserves are estimated at more than 1 billion tonnes shale oil, Xinhua reported June 20.
The latest preliminary estimates from exploratory wells showed volumes between 60 million and 135 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents, Vaar said in a statement.