When it comes to methane, the technology needed to identify the source of fugitive emissions from space isn't far off. And not just by some general area. It's possible to identify methane released by wellhead. Better yet, it's a way to climate-shame a political caste that has preferred to look the other way. From Scientific American.
Satellites ...survey large swaths of the planet. Their use of a single sensor also provides more consistency, making measurements from different spots directly comparable. Until recently, though, satellites have been prohibitively expensive and their spectroscopic sensors have lacked the precision of those closer to the ground, says Laure Brooker Lizon-Tati, an engineer with Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France.
That dynamic started to change within the past decade, as broader industry demands drove the miniaturization of electronics and shrank the costs of rocket launches. This made it possible to develop smaller, cheaper satellites that carry sensors capable of zooming in on individual sites to capture high-resolution methane measurements. Companies and one environmental group have leaped at harnessing such satellite capabilities for industries and policymakers eager to pinpoint individual local methane sources. But governments and large aerospace companies, encumbered by lengthy planning processes, have been slower to pivot away from a focus on measuring methane emissions on a regional and global scale. In 2016 the Montreal-based company GHGSat was the first to get off the ground with a proof-of-concept satellite called Claire, which successfully detected methane emissions from specific sites.
A handful of other groups have followed suit. The nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund has enlisted several companies to develop what it calls MethaneSAT, which could provide weekly coverage of up to 80 percent of the world’s major oil and gas production sites once it launches in 2021.
...If these companies can help inaugurate a new era of satellite monitoring of emissions, their efforts could lead to meaningful changes on the ground in several ways. Enabling companies to swiftly spot and fix more methane leaks from wellpads and pipelines would already make a difference in addressing emissions, Lauvaux says. Yet there are also the intangible benefits, as more satellite data can help generate a clear visual picture of the “massive amounts of methane floating around” that would resonate more with ordinary people than numbers alone, Lauvaux says. And when enough members of the public get concerned, he adds, more officials may finally feel compelled to do something about it.
“Climate change is such a difficult concept to see for yourself: you cannot touch it, you cannot look at it,” Lauvaux says. “But when you start to see the methane pouring out of a tank, I think the satellite images are going to really talk for themselves.”