According to data published on Thursday by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Mexican national oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos spewed hundreds of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere from an oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico in December.
Methane, which is invisible and odorless but considerably more destructive to the environment than carbon dioxide, is a key contributor to global warming.
The investigation discovered that two satellites captured photographs of methane plumes during one “ultraemission” event between December 8 and December 27.
Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, lead by Itziar Irakulis Loitxate, determined that around 4,000 tons of methane were emitted during that period.
During those 17 days, Pemex, as the business is called, released enough methane to equal 3.37 million tons of CO2, or 3% of the country’s yearly CO2 emissions.
Researchers found that the Gulf of Mexico spill was most likely caused by “abnormal process conditions at the site” like as breakdowns or equipment difficulties.
Requests for comment were not returned by Pemex or the Energy Ministry.
“These are the first detections made from satellites,” Irakulis Loitxate told Reuters. “Without the monitoring approach described in the paper, similar events would remain invisible and unaccounted.”
The emissions occurred in Campeche, Mexico, in the Gulf of Mexico, at the Zaap oil field, which is part of the Ku-Maloob-Zaap cluster, which generates almost 20% of the country’s total oil production. more info
The discoveries are part of a larger study by ESA experts, who told Reuters that the findings show the developing capabilities to identify and measure these man-made emissions from space.
Methane is significantly more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but it only lasts approximately a decade in the atmosphere.
Oil and gas businesses strive to flare the methane component of natural gas that rises to the surface as a byproduct of oil production to reduce its negative effect.
Separate satellites noticed that a near-constant flare vanished on December 8 and was only intermittently lighted up during the “ultraemission” event.