Sun.
Jul 25
2021
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Image: Total Media

TotalEnergies has announced a partnership with GHGSat to develop satellite imaging technology to track methane leaks at offshore facilities.

The project would be the first of its kind and demonstrate high-resolution satellite-based monitoring of methane emissions at sea.

Methane released into the atmosphere has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over 20 years. Monitoring and preventing methane emissions can significantly reduce the rate of global warming, contributing to efforts to move away from carbon-based energy.

Today, almost 30 percent of oil and gas production takes place offshore. Satellites could capture potential leaks and hold the key to verifying emissions from rigs. The technology is known as “Glint Mode” and developed by NASA, amongst others. It can avoid interference effects on data acquisition by observing the sun’s glint on the ocean surface.

Satellite imaging can be combined with local measurements, which TotalEnergies could supply. The French energy giant has developed an ultra-light drone-mounted spectrometer, which is widely considered the most accurate in the world.

GHGSat is described as a pioneer in the use of high-resolution satellites to measure methane emissions. The company’s patented infrared sensor could identify the “signature” created by methane leaks and absorb sunlight bouncing back off the surface.

As water absorbs sunlight when viewed directly from above, GHGSat will take measurements with greater precision, positioning the satellite’s sensor to focus on the point where the sun’s light reflects most strongly off the sea surface.

Both companies have been working together since 2018 to refine methane emissions measurement thresholds to track emissions better and prevent potential leaks.

The current initiative will open a new chapter for preventing methane leaks. It will conduct six satellite observations of TotalEnergies’ offshore sites and contribute to the company’s ESG strategy.

The announcement builds on TotalEnergies’ commitment within the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) to reduce the industry’s methane emissions.

Currently, 62 companies across five continents representing 30 percent of the world’s oil and gas production have already joined the partnership.

Last November, the company signed onto a second phase of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP 2.0) to support a more ambitious reporting framework to cover the entire gas value chain and non-operated assets.

TotalEnergies has also reduced routine flaring by more than 90 percent during the past decade and pledged to eliminate the practice by 2030.

Last October, TotalEnergies announced a new low-carbon strategy that will see it invest more heavily into natural gas and other renewables.

This February, the company announced that its new bond issues would be tied to climate key performance indicators. Based on the decision, the company will pay investors depending on its performance against measurable targets, all direct and indirect emissions under its control.

By Dimitri Frolowsckii

Dimitri Frolowsckii is a political analyst and consultant.

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