Marine methane leak detected from space

Thanks to satellite observations, scientists have for the first time detected significant leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from a marine installation (at sea).

This discovery is a new breakthrough in the technology arsenal that makes it possible from space to identify the sources of these gas blooms emanating from the fossil fuel industry.

The fossil fuel industry emits nearly 120 million tons of methane by 2020, with nearly a third of emissions linked to human activities, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which estimates that harmful gas leaks into the climate could be easily avoided.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has identified for the first time a bloom from a gas and oil production site in the Gulf of Mexico, which released about 40,000 tons in 17 days in December.

The site, near Campeche in southern Mexico, is one of the largest in the country.

Our results show how satellites can detect methane barriers from marine infrastructure“Comments in a press release by Luis Quander, one of the faculty members of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.”This paves the way for systematic monitoring of industrial emissions from maritime bases“, He adds.

Methods for satellite detection of methane leaks from land-based facilities have been widely developed in recent years, putting manufacturers on the hot seat.

However, available techniques do not identify leaks from marine installations, which account for approximately 30% of world production. The ability of the oceans to absorb short-wave infrared light actually controls the amount of light it reflects, so it can be detected by satellites.

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To overcome this problem, the research team was able to develop a new method for measuring the amount of solar radiation reflected from the ocean surface.

Methane is responsible for about 30% of global warming. Although it is much shorter than CO2 in the atmosphere, it is 80 times more powerful than warming energy over a 20-year period.

Therefore, it is important to reduce methane emissions to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, which restricts global warming to less than + 2 ° C, as opposed to + 1.5 C, compared to the pre-industrial period.

At COP26, the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow in November, more than 100 states pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. But many major emitting countries such as China, Russia, Iran or India have not signed.

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