Airborne inspections of methane plumes emitted by landfills, power stations, and oil fields in California have resulted in noticeable decreases in methane leaks, according to the state’s air regulator and a non-profit organization on Wednesday.

Between 2017 and 2021, 44 California institutions corrected methane leaks voluntarily after being told about them as part of a pilot study program that employed specially-equipped airplanes to detect and quantify methane leaked into the atmosphere.

The study’s findings indicate that one of the first of a rising number of initiatives to use space-age technologies to discover large sources of methane, an odorless and colorless gas, is working.

According to the two organizations, the adjustments avoided the equivalent of 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from leaking into the atmosphere, which is comparable to removing around 250,000 automobiles off the road for a year. Follow-up observations confirmed the decreases.

The initiative is a collaboration between the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Carbon Mapper, a non-profit organization that grew out of research conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2016.

In its first 20 years in the atmosphere, methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and scientists believe pinpointing methane sources is critical to accomplishing the substantial emissions reduction required to avert the worst effects of climate change.

“The plain reality about this giant polluter is that if you don’t know where the leaks are coming from, you can’t stop them. This study project exemplifies how data obtained by remote observations may be used to detect breaches and guide efforts to promptly stop them “CARB’s executive officer, Richard Corey, said.

Next year, Carbon Mapper will launch its first methane-spotting satellite.

The release did not name all of the facilities that reduced methane emissions, but it did say that Sempra Energy (SRE.N) gas company SoCalGas had reacted to leaks discovered in a pipeline by aircraft scans.

Source: Reuters

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