Satellite Discovery of Anomalously Large Methane Point Sources From Oil/Gas...

Varon, D. J., J. McKeever, D. Jervis, J. D. Maasakkers, S. Pandey, S. Houweling, I. Aben, T. Scarpelli, and D. Jacob (2019), Satellite Discovery of Anomalously Large Methane Point Sources From Oil/Gas Production, Geophys. Res. Lett., 46, 13507-13516.

Rapid identification of anomalous methane sources in oil/gas fields could enable corrective action to fight climate change. The GHGSat‐D satellite instrument measuring atmospheric methane with 50‐meter spatial resolution was launched in 2016 to demonstrate space‐based monitoring of methane point sources. Here we report the GHGSat‐D discovery of an anomalously large, persistent methane source (10–43 metric tons per hour, detected in over 50% of observations) at a gas compressor station in Central Asia, together with additional sources (4–32 metric tons per hour) nearby. The TROPOMI satellite instrument confirms the magnitude of these large emissions going back to at least November 2017. We estimate that these sources released 142 ± 34 metric kilotons of methane to the atmosphere from February 2018 through January 2019, comparable to the 4‐month total emission from the well‐documented Aliso Canyon blowout. Plain Language Summary Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is emitted from a variety of natural processes and human activities. Reducing methane emissions from oil/gas production and transmission facilities is considered to be one of the most immediately actionable ways to abate climate change, because the captured methane can be sold. Studies of U.S. oil/gas fields have shown that a small number of high‐emitting facilities are responsible for the bulk of the total emission from oil/gas operations. So far, the only way to identify and quantify these sources has been through field studies involving aircraft and ground‐based observations, but these are expensive, and much of the world cannot be observed in this way. Here we use satellite instruments to identify and quantify anomalously large point sources from an oil/gas field in Central Asia. Our work shows how satellite instruments can be used to monitor methane emissions from individual point sources across the world. It points to an observing strategy where instruments with global coverage at coarse spatial resolution can first identify methane hot spots and then instruments with fine spatial resolution but limited coverage can zoom in to identify the facilities responsible for the hot spots.

Research Program: 
Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Program (CCEP)