Geostationary satellite observations of extreme methane emissions from a natural gas pipeline

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Marc Watine-Guiu, Daniel J. Varon , Itziar Irakulis-Loitxate , Nicholas Balasus, Daniel J. Jacob


We demonstrate geostationary satellite monitoring of a large methane point source with the U.S. Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) constellation. GOES provides continuous 5–10-minute coverage of the Americas at 0.5–2 km nadir pixel resolution in 16 spectral bands. We use the shortwave infrared bands to track the full evolution of an extreme methane release from the El Encino – La Laguna natural gas pipeline in Durango, Mexico on 12 May 2019. The release lasted three hours at a variable rate of 260–550 metric tons of methane per hour and totaled 1130–1380 metric tons, enough to power 3600–4400 Mexican urban households for a year. We show how the time-dependent source rate can be estimated from a sequence of 5-minute GOES scans without the need for information on local wind speed. Our results demonstrate the unique value of geostationary satellite instruments for detecting extreme and brief methane emission events, quantifying emissions from variable point sources, and precisely determining source locations.



Physical Sciences and Mathematics


methane, Geostationary, satellites, remote sensing


Published: 2023-06-27 08:35

Last Updated: 2023-07-03 19:17

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International