As the awareness of methane’s contribution to climate change continues to grow, several technologies to identify and measure it have emerged. Most of these solutions offer limited coverage to the oil and gas industry in monitoring their assets over vast territories, often in harsh or dangerous settings. Satellites, which can cover large areas, have monitored methane from space for decades, but until 2016, they lacked the ability to zero-in on individual facilities to enable action.
Launched in June 2016, GHGSat-D (Claire) was the first to demonstrate the potential of high-resolution satellites in helping the oil and gas industry identify and address methane emissions. After 4 years of operation, the lessons learned were incorporated into two new satellites, GHGSat-C1 (Iris), launched in September 2020, and GHGSat-C2 (Hugo), expected to launch in December 2020.
The objective of this paper is to present some of the first results from this second generation of satellites, introduce some of the analytics applications being developed to deliver actionable insight the oil and gas operators and demonstrate the impact the technology can have through collaborations with other systems to both augment and respond to increasing global transparency.
In addition, some of the first results from the aircraft variant of the satellite sensor will be presented.
Up to 97% of natural gas is made up of methane (Enbridge 2019), a powerful greenhouse gas with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 84 times greater than that of CO2 over a 20-year period (Myhre, et al. 2013). In the last 5 years following the 2015 Aliso Canyon leak in California, one of the largest ever in the United States (Conley, et al. 2016), methane has increasingly come into focus as oil and gas operators around the world are challenged by investors, shareholders and the general public to decarbonize and play an active role in addressing climate change.
According to a 2018 report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (covering 24 of the world's largest oil and gas companies, accounting together for over 31% of global hydrocarbon production) these 24 companies "(…) are losing on average 3.3% of their gas production through flaring, venting and methane leakages, worth almost US$5Bn at the current (2018) Henry Hub gas price." (Fletcher, et al. 2018) Aside from the obvious loss of product and associated revenue, this amount of loss is crucial for one simple reason: studies have concluded that beyond 3% leakage across the natural gas value chain, from extraction to end user, gas has a worse impact on climate than using coal (Alvarez, et al. 2012). Rapid identification and repair of methane leaks across the value chain is therefore not only one of the easiest ways for oil and gas companies to make an impact, it is also critical to maintaining the credibility of natural gas as the transition fuel away from coal and towards renewable sources of energy.