A new constellation of highly sophisticated satellites gives developed countries the ability to detect, with pinpoint precision, where the super emitters of methane gas are around the globe, from pipelines in Russia, to giants gas fields in Turkmenistan to North America's oil fields.
This extraordinary boost in environmental intelligence, climate researchers say, will be key to shining the spotlight on the worst polluters, the first step in bringing them in line with the rest of world and perhaps mitigating the worst triggers of climate change.
Methane is the second most abundant anthropogenic green house gas (GHG) after carbon dioxide (CO2) ( which is responsible for about 20% of global emissions. This gas is more than 25x as potent as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. It can be emitted from various sources, natural or anthropogenic (human-influenced) such as:
- Oil and natural gas systems
- Agricultural activities
- Coal mining
- Wastewater treatment
- Industrial processes
Over the last 200 years, methane concentrations in the air have more than doubled, largely because of human-related activities.
Along these lines, they have gone up alarmingly since 2007. Climate scientists said that this rising CH4 emissions may be the biggest threat to keep global temperatures below 1.5C.
Kayrros, a leading environmental intelligence company with headquarters in France, says methane leaks from oil and gas systems can be avoided by doing proper maintenance, repairing valves and pipes that leak, and replacing worn parts.
NASA EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Investigation -- advances studies of airborne dust and its impact on climate change. But scientists can also use the EMIT device to detect places with the most significant methane emissions) satellite imagery identified Turkmenistan as the country with the highest number of super-emitting events – 184 out of 1,005 events. Moreover, Kayrros also discovered that 70 out of the top 100 biggest super-emitter events were in Turkmenistan.
The biggest event with the highest gas leak of all also happened in the country, on the Caspian coast. The fossil fuel field in the western part of the coast released about 2.6 million tonnes of methane in 2022. The other field in the east leaked 1.8 million tonnes. The two fields emitted emissions totaling 366 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is greater than the UK's yearly emissions, which rank 17th in the world.