Methane Emissions from Pipelines and Landfills

While methane is emitted from various natural and man-made sources, methane super-emitters release a disproportionately large amount of methane compared to other emitters. Super-emitters include industrial facilities such as oil and gas operations, coal mines and landfills with equipment or infrastructure issues leading to significant methane leaks. GHGSat is focused on identifying greenhouse gas super-emitters and ascertaining the precise location of the leak to quickly, effectively and (usually) inexpensively resolve it. Their nine-satellite constellation works alongside the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, which can produce a global map of methane emissions daily at a lower resolution. GHGSat’s higher resolution imagery can give more precise information to pinpoint the exact location of the emission source. The expanding fleet of satellites can provide data that would have been impractical and expensive to collect just a few years ago and help countries audit their climate impacts and more accurately monitor the progress of their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

In March 2023, researchers at the University of Leeds in the UK discovered methane leaking from a faulty pipe in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, using satellite data from GHGSat. This marked the first time a UK methane emission has been seen from space and mitigated. The precise location was discovered with the 25m high-resolution satellite imagery, which can detect emissions from individual facilities, making small leaks visible and accurately measurable from space. Using data collected over two months, scientists discovered the site was leaking methane at a rate of ~200 – 1,400 kg/hr. Once the researchers and GHGSat alerted the pipeline owners, remedial action was taken through repairs, and the problem was fully resolved by June, with no further emissions detected. 

In 2021, GHGSat and ESA Copernicus satellites detected substantial quantities of methane leaking from landfill sites close to the center of Madrid, Spain. Scientists from the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and GHGSat discovered both landfill sites combined emitted up to 8800kg of methane per hour in August 2021 – the highest observed in Europe by GHGSat. Additionally, in April 2021, a GHGSat satellite recorded large quantities of methane (approximately 4000 kg per hour) from the 73-hectare Matuail Landfill in south Dhaka, Bangladesh. Yet another landfill site near Jakarta, Indonesia, was measured to emit 15,900 kg per hour, equivalent to nearly 400,000 kg of carbon dioxide per hour.