Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) subsidiary MethaneSAT LLC, which is developing a satellite system to track emissions initially from oil and natural gas operations, should launch in early 2022, a year later than previously anticipated, said Senior Vice President Mark Brownstein.
The satellite, to be built by Ball Aerospace, has an initial capital cost of $88 million.* Operating costs are still being analyzed, said Brownstein, who spoke last week at the North American Gas Forum in Washington, DC.
The first-of-its kind satellite has the potential to monitor methane emissions from a variety of sources, but initially is focusing on emissions from oil and gas operations. One of the goals of MethaneSAT is to measure how voluntary methane reduction programs have been enacted by oil and gas operators.
“We’ll be able to determine globally where emissions are coming from and who’s responsible for them,” Brownstein said. The data collected by the satellite will eventually be made public, furthering the accountability.
Many operators are working to track their emissions already. BP plc announced in early September it would deploy continuous methane monitoring technology at existing oil and gas facilities throughout its global operations, in conjunction with broadening its use of drones.
The launch of the satellite would also further the EDF’s work in the Permian Basin, Brownstein said. The EDF has initiated a year-long effort to map and measure emissions in a venture to provide transparent data spotlighting methane reduction opportunities, as well as help curtail regional climate pollution, it said earlier this month.
MethaneSAT’s initial data package should also include carbon dioxide detection, and methane detection from other sources like large livestock feedlots, Brownstein said.
The International Energy Agency estimated in 2017 that the oil and gas industry could achieve a 75% reduction in methane emissions using technologies that were already available. In addition, roughly 60% of the reductions could be achieved at no net cost when factoring the market value of captured gas, Brownstein noted.
Methane detection “is only getting more important, and cheaper,” he said.
*Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of the satellite system under development by Environmental Defense Fund subsidiary MethaneSAT LLC. The initial capital cost is $88 million. NGI regrets the error.