Using AI, satellites and algorithms to map methane

By neub9
3 Min Read

Year after year, our planet continues to heat up due to the increase in greenhouse gas pollution. Shockingly, 2023 has been reported as the hottest year on record, and the last decade has seen the highest temperatures since 1850. It’s absolutely crucial to address this warming trend in order to reduce the risk of wildfires, droughts, and other extreme environmental events, and to promote cleaner air and healthier communities. Today, we are proud to announce our partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to utilize our combined science and technology to decrease methane emissions. This is one of the most effective short-term actions we can take to combat global warming.

Human-generated methane emissions contribute to approximately 30% of global warming today, with a significant portion coming from the extraction of fossil fuels such as oil and gas. By harnessing the power of cloud computing to fuel methane detection algorithms and applying artificial intelligence to analyze satellite imagery in order to identify oil and gas infrastructure across the globe, our aim is to assist EDF in quantifying and tracing methane emissions to their source. Armed with this information, energy companies, researchers, and the public sector can take swifter and more effective action to reduce emissions from oil and gas infrastructure.

Utilizing Satellites to Detect Methane Emissions

EDF’s innovative satellite, MethaneSAT, has the capability to map, measure, and track methane emissions with unprecedented accuracy, providing a comprehensive assessment of methane levels. Scheduled for launch in early March on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, MethaneSAT will orbit the Earth 15 times a day from an altitude of over 350 miles, focusing on the top oil and gas regions globally for regular analysis. This cutting-edge satellite has the unique ability to monitor both high-emission methane sources and small dispersed sources across a wide area. EDF has developed algorithms, powered by Google Cloud in collaboration with scientists at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and its Center for Astrophysics, as well as scientists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, to calculate the amount of methane emitted in specific locations and track these emissions over time.

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