Determining specific release rates of greenhouse gases using satellite technology is something completely new. Oil sands mining operators are required by law to report annual measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions that escape from tailings ponds and mine surfaces. These are known as “fugitive emissions.” Until recently, measuring these emissions required workers to install flux chambers (a tent or enclosure) to collect gases on site. This method lacks precision and has many variables, because a limited number of samples are collected once per year during the summer. The results are then just extrapolated over the entire year. The launch of the new greenhouse gas satellite, Claire, in June 2016 could change all that.
Measuring greenhouse gas emissions from space is potentially far more accurate, cheaper and safer than the current method used. The satellite project, using technology from a Quebec-based company, could also prove valuable for testing the effectiveness of technologies used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the project is successful, it has the potential to be quickly adopted as the industry standard.
How accurately can the satellite measure greenhouse gases from space?
GHGSat’s design goal is to measure variations of 1% of background.