Monitoring emissions from space may seem far-fetched, but it’s actually a proven technology. And recently it got better.
Developed by a Montreal aerospace company that specializes in satellite technologies, in 2016 GHGSat launched the world’s first emissions-detection satellite system in collaboration with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and other companies across several industrial sectors.
On May 25, 2022, GHGSat added to its fleet with the launch of three satellites, GHGSat-C3 (“Luca”), C4 (“Penny”) and C5 (“Diako”) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. This new launch brings the total number of satellites to six. GHGSat plans to have 10 satellites of this kind up by the end of 2022 to increase the frequency of data collection.
The target: methane emissions from sources such as oil and natural gas wells, coal mines, power plants, farms and factories. The satellites are equipped with enhanced spectrometers that can quantify emissions by location every two weeks. The ability to detect and measure emissions is critical for stakeholders to better understand their carbon footprint and take actions to reduce it.
Unlike ground-based detection and monitoring, GHGSat can take readings more frequently, in varying weather conditions, and in all four seasons. To date, the system has demonstrated that measurements can be performed with 100 times higher spatial resolution than NASA or other national space agency satellites provide, in order to measure emissions from individual facilities. In the oil sands region, where existing methods to measure fugitive emissions are expensive and require on-site measurements, GHGSat can reduce costs to the operator by more than 50 per cent while offering 12 times more measurements per year.