Exclusive Satellite Images Show Methane Clouds Near Polish Coal Mine


(Bloomberg) — Throughout COP27, Bloomberg Green will exclusively release new satellite images of methane releases around the world, in conjunction with emissions monitoring firm GHGSat Inc. Scientists say reducing methane emissions, which has 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere, is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to cool the planet.

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Pszczyna County, Poland, November 8, 1:25 p.m. local time

Two distinct methane plumes were observed in southern Poland near the border with the Czech Republic by a GHGSat satellite on November 8. The emissions monitoring company attributed the methane concentrations to the coal sector and estimated the combined rate of the two plumes at 3,410 kilograms. per hour.

Poland’s Climate and Environment Ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent outside normal business hours.

Methane can escape from coal mines when sedimentary rocks are crushed or coal seams are exposed. Miners often attempt to drain methane from coal seams before extracting the fossil fuel to reduce the risk of explosions and fires. The sector is responsible for around 30% of total emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas from the energy sector. Stopping intentional methane venting and accidental leaks from coal mines and oil and gas infrastructure is considered by scientists to be one of the lowest payoffs in the fight against climate change.

Both plumes were near Poland’s KWK Pniówek coal mine, according to Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that tracks global fossil fuel infrastructure. The vents of large underground mines can be several miles from where the coal comes out of the ground.

The KWK Pniówek mine was highlighted in a 2015 report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as part of its Coalbed Methane Outreach Program which works with mines in the United States and abroad to encourage economic use of coal mine methane that is otherwise vented to the atmosphere.

Poland remains heavily dependent on coal for domestic heating and the country is home to 40 of the 100 cities with the worst air quality in the European Union. The nation has one of the highest prevalences of premature deaths linked to contaminated air on the continent.

Fars Province, Iran, November 6, 9:25 a.m. local time

A GHGSat satellite observed methane emissions near fossil fuel facilities on Nov. 6 in a remote corner of Fars province in southern Iran. The emissions monitoring company attributed the plume to the oil and gas sector and estimated that methane was spouting at a rate of 795 kilograms per hour at the time of the sighting.

Officials at the National Iranian Oil Co., the country’s government-owned oil and natural gas producer, did not immediately respond to an email sent outside normal business hours.

The emissions occurred near the Arsanjan-Kheirgoo gas compressor station. According to a promotional video from site operating subsidiary Sekafco.

National Iranian Oil spews more methane than any other global energy producer according to a report released last week by Global Energy Monitor. The nonprofit group found that just 30 fossil fuel companies account for nearly half of the sector’s emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas.

Methane is the main component of natural gas and responsible for about 30% of global warming. Leaks can occur during the extraction and transportation of fossil fuel.

The potent greenhouse gas, which has 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere, is also regularly generated as a byproduct of oil or coal production. and if the operators do not have the infrastructure to transport the gas to the market. they can release it into the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency has called on oil and gas operators to stop all non-emergency methane venting.

Near Kirtland, New Mexico, USA, November 6, 1:48 p.m. local time

A GHGSat satellite observed methane emissions near a coal mine Nov. 6 in New Mexico that the emissions monitoring company said came from a mine vent. The company estimated that the rejection was spitting up at a rate of 440.4 kilograms per hour.

Operating coal mines often vent methane to reduce the risk of explosion. Closed or abandoned coal mines can leak methane gas for years if not properly sealed.

GHGSat said it first detected emissions from the site via a demonstration satellite in 2016. A New Mexico Department of Environment official said Westmoreland Mining LLC is the operator of the facility located near the plume. A Westmoreland official did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment.

Near Lucknow, India, November 5, 1:28 p.m. local time

The satellite image was taken on November 5 and shows a methane plume that GHGSat attributed to a landfill in India. The estimated emission rate was 1,328 kilograms of methane per hour. Landfills tend to be persistent emitters, according to the Montreal-based company.

The detection highlights how piles of trash – which generate the potent greenhouse gas when organic matter like food scraps decompose in the absence of oxygen – trigger some of the strongest methane emissions and most persistent in the world. Landfills and sewage are responsible for about 20% of methane emissions generated by human activity.

• Read more: South Asia’s mountains of garbage that threaten the climate

Failure to curb discharges from the waste sector could derail global climate goals. Diverting food scraps and other organic materials before they enter a landfill is key to limiting future emissions. The impact of legacy landfills can be mitigated by waste pile aeration and gas capture systems.

Near Daqing, China, on November 4 at 1:15 p.m. local time

On Nov. 4, a satellite identified six methane releases in northeast China near the Daqing oilfield, according to GHGSat. Estimated emission rates ranged between 446 and 884 kilograms per hour and the cumulative rate was 4,477 kilograms per hour. If the releases lasted an hour at this rate, they would have the same short-term climate impact as the annual emissions from about 81 American cars.

• Read more: Countries set to boost global methane commitment at Climate Summit

The detections highlight the rapidly expanding ability of satellites to identify and track methane almost anywhere in the world, ushering in a new era of climate transparency in which greenhouse gases will be quantified and attributed in near real time. to individual assets and businesses.

More and more companies and institutions are launching multispectral satellites capable of detecting the unique signature of methane. GHGSat has six satellites in orbit now dedicated to industrial methane monitoring and aims to launch five more by the end of next year. The US non-profit Environmental Defense Fund plans to launch its MethaneSAT in 2023 and a consortium including Carbon Mapper, the State of California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Planet Labs plans to launch two satellites next year.

In 2021, atmospheric methane concentrations saw the biggest year-on-year jump since measurements began four decades ago, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

–With the help of Golnar Motevalli.

(This story is updated through November 18 with new satellite images of methane releases around the world.)

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