Sputnik helped to detect a large leak of methane from the Permian basin

The satellite Sentinel-5 Precursor helped to establish that increasing the concentration of methane in the lower atmosphere over the southern States of the USA caused by a leak from the Permian basin. Access to this facility for environmental research is difficult for legal reasons, but accurate satellite observations have allowed to do without direct sampling. About 4.6 percent of natural gas produced from the Permian basin is lost, polluting the air and endangering the health of the local population and the equilibrium of ecosystems. The reasons the authors of an article published in the journal Science Advances, is called a not enough developed infrastructure of oil production and refuse to recommend the torch method of gas flaring, because of its serious environmental hazard.

The potential impact of methane on the greenhouse effect in the 28-34 times greater than CO2. Its ecological danger lies in the fact that it is a precursor of highly toxic tropospheric ozone. Conventional oil production is almost always accompanied by the leakage of associated petroleum gas, which is methane in mixtures with other hydrocarbons. The gas supplied under high pressure, people collect and use, but at a pressure less than five bar this process is difficult and becomes unprofitable. Often this gas is simply burned in flares, although environmental organizations do not recommend.

In, for example, oil companies are obliged to burn no more than 5 percent of associated gas, but in 2016 burned approximately 12.4×106 tons, is not less than 14 percent (though major leakage was not detected). By 2017, the situation has improved, and manyn companies were able to achieve the required performance.

The biggest field of oil and gas in North America is the Permian basin located in the States of Texas, new Mexico and Oklahoma it produces more than 30 percent crude oil and 10 percent natural gas in the United States. Environmental monitoring of the basin is difficult: the laws of neighbouring States in the field of environmental protection and property rights is significantly different, and in many places to sample it is impossible.

Scientists under the leadership of Yuzhong Zhang (Zhang Yuzhong) from Harvard in 2018 analyzed the data received from the satellite Sentinel-5 Precursor. This satellite is equipped TROPOMI — the instrument monitoring of the troposphere, which determines the concentration of ozone, sulphur and nitrogen oxides, methane, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde in the air. Experts have noticed an increase in methane concentration over the southern U.S., and suggested that this emission may indicate leakage from the Permian basin.

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