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Methane Emission Detection from Satellite Measurements



The project, Methane Emission Detection from Satellite Measurements, is being developed by the U.K. National Physical Laboratory (NPL), experienced in emission detection and rate measurement using in-situ measurement technologies, in particular with application to land fill sites and the oil and gas industry, and GHGSat Inc., a company operating a state-of-the-art satellite system to detect atmospheric methane.

Scope of the activity is a demonstration exercise to determine current and emerging capabilities to detect surface methane emissions from small and facility scale areas using satellites (e.g. leaks from high pressure gas infrastructures and unlicensed land fill sites), which would have a considerable impact for both gas pipeline operators and national EPAs.

The aim is to characterize the level of performance, in particular, to what extent leaks can be detected with reference to operator’s requirements. This includes integration of the latest GHGSAT satellite (i.e. GHGSat-C1), which is expected to provide an order of magnitude improvement in methane detection (400 tons per year in the relative absence of wind to 1,000 tons per year in moderate winds) over the previous GHGSat satellite (i.e. GHGSat-D), operational for more than two years. The project envisages a co-design exercise with end-user communities (e.g gas pipeline operators, infrastructures technical services providers, etc…), stakeholders (UK Environment Agency) and partners (U.K. National Grid, which is the owner and operator of the UK National Transmission System comprising approximately 7660 kilometres of high pressure pipeline and 618 above-ground installations).The project will provide key outputs to underpin and stimulate the development of commercial services for the determination of methane mass emissions, in particular from the gas industry. This will be achieved through three key phases

Phase 1 – Measurement requirement definition – a key outcome will be the definition of a comprehensive measurement service and data product requirement specification. This will be achieved through discussions and interaction with industry bodies and gas supply companies. A key point is that there is likely to be no single measurement requirement and a range of capabilities will be needed. The project will therefore assess the range of needs from industry, including for example the quantification of methane emissions from sites/facilities and the identification of leaks from distributed infrastructure. By identifying the key needs and drivers, a range of potential data services can be identified and this will enable satellite providers and data providers to tailor current and future services to meet the needs of industry.

Phase 2 – Satellite capability validation and calibration – satellite methane column measurements are validated against ground stations such as those in TCONN. However, this does not provide the necessary calibration and validation data to support methane mass emission quantification or specific leak detection data products and services. To support the development and ongoing operation of these services a suitable calibration infrastructure is necessary. This project will develop such an approach utilising existing methane sources. As a demonstration of the feasibility of this approach a landfill site will be used, as these sites emit methane on a continuous basis. Such ground calibration sites would then be available in subsequent commercial data services as routine mass emission rate calibration sites. This project will therefore develop a key element of mass emission data product services, enabling the commercial deployment of such services.

Phase 3 – Operational review of GHGSat and other satellites –  Satellite capabilities will be reviewed for their applicability specifically to pipeline monitoring. Subject to this review and the results of Phase 1, the project partners aim for a demonstration of GHGSat-C1 capabilities and methane mass emission data products for applicability to monitoring pipeline facilities such as compressors and terminals.


Prime contractor
  • GHGSat Inc (CA)