Ac­tion on meth­ane leaks

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Damian Car­ring­ton

Meth­ane leak­ing from oil and gas fa­cil­i­ties around the world – a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to global warm­ing – is set to be spot­ted from space.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund has an­nounced it aims to launch a satel­lite called MethaneSAT by 2021 to scan the globe and make ma­jor leaks pub­lic. It hopes the in­for­ma­tion will en­able gov­ern­ments to force ac­tion. Build­ing and launch­ing the satel­lite will cost tens of mil­lions of dol­lars, but the EDF says it has raised most of the money.

Meth­ane is a po­tent green­house gas, 80 times more pow­er­ful than car­bon diox­ide in the short term, and is re­spon­si­ble for about a fifth of hu­man­caused cli­mate change. The oil and gas in­dus­try is to blame for about a third of an­thro­pogenic meth­ane emis­sions, from fracking and other ex­plo­ration sites, and from leaky pipe­lines.

“Cut­ting meth­ane emis­sions from the global oil and gas in­dus­try is the sin­gle fastest thing we can do to help put the brakes on cli­mate change right now,” said Fred Krupp, the EDF pres­i­dent. Only 3% of oil and gas com­pa­nies re­port quan­ti­ta­tive meth­ane emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to the EDF. “By pro­vid­ing re­li­able, fully trans­par­ent data on a world­wide scale, MethaneSAT will help trans­form a se­ri­ous cli­mate threat into a cru­cial op­por­tu­nity,” he said.

Plug­ging meth­ane leaks is widely seen as a fast, cheap way to tackle cli­mate change. The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA) es­ti­mates half of the gas leaks could be stopped at zero cost, be­cause the cost of do­ing so is off­set by the value of the ex­tra gas cap­tured and then sold.

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