Satellites unveil easily-fixable super-emissions in one of the world's largest methane hotspot regions

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Itziar Irakulis-Loitxate , Luis Guanter , Joannes D. Maasakkers, Daniel Zavala-Araiza , Ilse Aben 


The reduction of methane emissions from fossil fuel production and use activities has been identified as an essential means for climate change mitigation, but the identification of active emission sources remains elusive for most oil and gas production basins around the world. This limitation can be overcome thanks to recent advances in the detection and quantification of methane point emissions from space. In this work, we combine three complementary satellite data sets to survey single methane emission sources on the west coast of Turkmenistan, one of the largest methane hotspots in the world. We found 29 different emission sources active in the 2017-2020 time period, all of them with emission rates >1700 kg/h and linked to extraction fields mainly dedicated to crude oil production. We estimate that 83% of the identified emitters are inactive flares that directly vent gas to the atmosphere. Several of those emitters showed flaring activity in the past, suggesting a causal relationship between an observed decrease in flaring and the increase in venting. At the regional level, 2020 shows a substantial increase in the number of methane plume detections with respect to previous years. Our results reveal that emissions from the west coast of Turkmenistan could be easily avoided by a proper maintenance of infrastructure and operations, and that new satellite methods promise a revolution in the detection and monitoring of methane point emissions worldwide.



Environmental Sciences


Methane emissions, plume detection, plume quantification, temporal monitoring, high-resolution satellite data


Published: 2021-05-26 09:21

Last Updated: 2021-05-26 16:21


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):;

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.