Significant Methane Leak in the UK Detected by GHGSat

Methane leak detected in the United Kingdom by GHGSat satellites on April 20th, 2023. Image credit: GHGSat.

GHGSat has released details of a significant methane leak, this time in the UK. In this case, when alerted, the operator of the leaking pipeline, fixed the issue quickly. GHGSat said this was the first time a “UK methane emission has been seen from space and mitigated.”

This example shows yet again the value of GHGSat’s small but growing constellation of emissions detection satellites from space. It also begs the question, with so few commercial assets in space monitoring for emissions, how much is being missed?

Discovering the Leak

According to GHGSat the leak was discovered by National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) at the University of Leeds using GHGSat data.

In an exclusive story given the BBC, they interviewed Emily Dowd, a PhD researcher at the University of Leeds affiliated with the NCEO and the School of Earth and Environment.

Ms. Dowd had been “using satellite imagery to assess methane leaks from landfill sites.” She just happened to notice the leak when looking at landfill sites data.

The Leeds team which, Ms. Dowd is working with, had been looking at data supplied by the European Space Agency’s Third-Party Missions program to support the project. That data had been supplied by GHGSat when it joined the program in May of 2022. According to GHGSat “the Leeds team identified an unusually large source near a landfill site they were focusing on. The source, near Cheltenham, was releasing methane at a rate of over 200 kg/hr. This was subsequently confirmed by researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, who visited the site with their mobile measurement vehicle.”

The cause was a pipeline owned by Wales & West Utilities. GHGSat said that “It has been estimated that the total volume of methane that leaked from the pipe over the 11 week-period was equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of more than 7,500 average homes, according to the EPA calculator.”

On finding the leak Ms. Dowd said, “this leak brings a question of how many there are out there and maybe we need to be looking a bit harder to find them and take advantage of the technology we have.”

MS. Dowd further stated to GHGSat said, “Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas and this work has shown that satellites can now provide a system to rapidly identify where leaks are happening so that action can be taken to minimise emissions and therefore the climate impact.”

A new scientific paper is being co-published by researchers at the University of Leeds and GHGSat “evaluating the role that satellites can play in pinpointing methane leaks, with lessons drawn from the events in Gloucestershire.”

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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