• EDF announces MethaneAIR to complement MethaneSAT atmospheric detection projects

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced it will augment its campaign to track emissions of methane from oil, gas, and other facilities (such as landfills) by equipping a jet aircraft with “groundbreaking” methane measurement technology for use this year.

The MethaneAIR project will join the MethaneSAT project (which is to use a satellite to track methane emissions, beginning in 2024), delivering open data on emissions/atmospheric methane concentrations so as to “help both industry and regulators achieve faster, more effective reductions in emissions” of the gas that is approximately 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas over twenty years (and around 27-30 over 100 years).

The new jet will focus on emissions within North America, covering 10 target areas across 10,000 km2, including the Denver-Julesburg basin in Colorado, the Haynesville Shale in East Texas and Louisiana, and the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico. Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory have been involved in the project development, and flights are scheduled to begin this boreal summer. In contrast, MethaneSAT will be more global, collecting data from 30 target areas per day, across 40,000 km2, after it is launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Apart from the point-source facilities, emissions from agriculture will also be tracked.

The technology is indeed impressive – imaging spectrometers will track changes in atmospheric concentrations as small as three parts per billion, and the “analytics developed by MethaneSAT will track emissions back to their source, regardless of size”. Jon Goldstein, of the Environmental Defense Fund said in relation to the projects that the EDF is “working directly with oil and gas operators, state and national governments, and organisations like the International Energy Agency to actively catalyse better, more effective reduction of these emissions.”

Both projects have the potential to be profoundly impactful in precipitating methane emissions reductions.