Emission management

Oil Heavyweights Join Offshore Methane Study

The year-long research project is aimed at proving the feasibility of reliable, space-based emissions monitoring.

Credit: GHGSat.

Chevron, Shell, and TotalEnergies are supporting a 12-month research project, which is expected to achieve a world-first in demonstrating high-resolution satellite-based monitoring of anthropogenic methane (CH4) emissions at sea. Led by Canadian-based GHGSat, the new research project aims to assess the feasibility of space-based methane monitoring technology to measure emissions from offshore oil and gas platforms.

GHGSat is testing a technique developed by NASA, amongst others, and proven in fields such as ocean height and ice-thickness measurement. With a vantage point 500 km above the Earth, and high revisit rates, the company believes satellites could hold the key to verifying emissions from rigs, easily and cost-effectively.

The study will monitor 18 offshore sites in locations such as the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico for over 12 months.

“This is a GHGSat research project but one driven by customer demand,” said Stephane Germain, chief executive of GHGSat. “Offshore producers are looking for ways to confirm their reported emissions. With this new research, we hope to show that space can provide the data they need, in a timely, reliable, and cost-effective way. Measuring offshore emissions properly is important: we need to improve the accuracy of the global methane stock take, replacing estimates with precise data.”

GHGSat’s patented infrared sensor can identify the unique signature created by methane as it absorbs sunlight bouncing back off the surface of the Earth. As water absorbs sunlight when viewed directly from above, GHGSat will take measurements at more acute angles, positioning the spacecraft’s sensor so it focuses on the point where the sun’s light reflects most strongly off the sea. As the satellite is traveling at approximately 7.5 km/sec, this requires precise choreography but means that 100 times more light can be sent to the gas-detecting instrument—known as an interferometer—enabling precise measurements to be made.

Each of the oil company participants will have six of their offshore facilities observed at locations around the world. The initial feasibility assessment will begin later this year with satellite readings being checked against measurements taken onboard the platforms by hand-held devices and drones.