Study: A Few Hundred Sites Responsible For 3rd Of Methane Emissions In California

By Julian Hernandez
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 12:24pm
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NASA's Methane Source Finder interactive map tool allows individuals to examine data collected by the research team on methane emissions in the state of California.

Less than 1% of infrastructure sites surveyed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were responsible for more than a third of California’s total methane emissions, according to a study published in the Nature Journal.

Using airplanes fitted with their Airborne Visible-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer - Next Generation (ARIVIS-NG) system, a technology designed to measure the spectrum of visible and non-visible light, NASA scientists were able to search for methane plumes by taking measurements in areas as small as 3 meters wide.

Riley Duren, a University of Arizona research scientist the lead researcher behind the NASA team that conducted the study, said the research will improve scientists’ understanding of how methane emissions react in the atmosphere and how increasing methane levels will affect the environment.

Duren said in being able to identify point sources of methane plumes with a great level of precision also allows the potential for California to work with the producers of the greenhouse gas in mitigating future emissions.

“When we surveyed a lot of infrastructure in California over a three-year period, we found that less than 0.2% of the infrastructure is responsible for over a third of the state’s total methane emission,” Duren said.

During the study, Duren and the researchers were able to work the owners and managers of several sources of methane plumes detected to identify leaks and malfunctions in their methane recovery systems.

In 2017, California produced 424 million metric tons of greenhouse gases equivalent to CO2, according to the California Air Resources Board.

A similar study conducted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the Center For Climate Strategies and published in 2005 estimated total greenhouse gas emissions for Arizona in 2020 to exceed 160 million metric tons equivalent of CO2.

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