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SpaceX and Google create global methane map

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SpaceX and Google create global methane map

When space technology meets environmental protection, a new satellite watches over planet Earth: “MethaneSAT”, the first in a series of new satellites, is intended to detect the sources of methane emissions. Google will use the innovation, developed over six years, to map methane leaks around the world.

SpaceX launched Falcon 9 rocket into space

“After an error-free launch, MethaneSAT is on its way into space with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket,” said the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in an initial statement yesterday. The satellite has now been separated from the rocket and is now tasked with detecting methane leaks from oil and gas companies worldwide. This is important because escaping methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change. Methane is more than 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, about a third of human-caused global warming comes from methane, with agriculture being the largest source of methane emissions. The energy sector is the second largest source, accounting for 40 percent of human-caused methane emissions. If methane leaks are found and tracked, it becomes possible to identify the main culprits and take targeted action against them.

Google is working on the first global methane map

The MethaneSAT was developed by the Environmental Defense Fund from the USA, which entered into a cooperation with Google in this regard. Google will use MethaneSAT data in combination with artificial intelligence to map methane leaks worldwide. It uses the same AI technology that Google uses to identify trees, pedestrian paths and intersections in satellite images, as Business Insider reported. Specifically, the first global methane map with interactive emissions data is to be created by the end of 2024. It should be visible to everyone and usher in a new era of climate responsibility, says the EDF on its website. However, Google is not the only project partner. The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 10 Aerospace, Blue Canyon Technologies and the New Zealand Space Agency are among the “Mission Partners”.

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The MethaneSAT target areas can be seen on the map. © Environmental Defense Fund

MethaneSAT will not remain the only satellite

Until now, tracking methane leaks in real time was not possible. That is why the EDF speaks of “the beginning of a new era of accountability in the energy sector”. The MethaneSAT is not the only one; it is intended to be just one of many new satellites that are intended to detect methane gas sources around the world. The overarching goal is

To help oil and gas companies meet their goals to dramatically reduce methane leaks by 2030. At the UN Climate Summit 2023 (COP 28) in Dubai, the world‘s leading oil and gas producers spoke of wanting to almost eliminate their methane emissions this decade. Specifically, more than 50 oil and gas companies, representing more than 40 percent of global oil production, committed to reducing their emissions to almost zero by 2030. Additionally, new methane regulations were passed last year in both the United States and the European Union, imposing stricter emissions limits for oil and gas producers.

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