Satellites Are Helping Spot Harmful Gas Leaks


Satellites are being leveraged as a new instrument to spot and fix gas leaks.

Last year, a satellite named Claire was studying a mud volcano in Turkmenistan and spotted a gas leak coming from a Korpezhe oil and gas field. More specifically, the satellite spotted large plumes near a compressor station. GHGsat, the company that operates Claire, passed along the images to state officials, which eventually led to the methane leaks being resolved.

The incident was momentous because it indicated that satellites could be effective at spotting leaks of gases adding to global warming, but it also highlighted that gas leaks could go for long periods of time unnoticed.

For example, the methane leak in Turkmenistan released 142,000 tons of methane. 25% of global warming tied to human activity is a result of methane.

There has been increasing focus on developing satellites that can spot leaks of different gases that are harmful to the environment. Spectrometers have been mounted onto satellites in order to capture reflections of light that occur during a gas leak. TROPOMI is a spectrometer that was placed onto the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite.

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