Supporting a Methane-Tracking Satellite Project: Google’s Cloud and AI Tools Embrace Green IT

A satellite, named MethaneSAT, is set to launch with the goal of tracking methane emissions from oil and gas facilities. By mapping, measuring, and tracking these emissions, the satellite aims to encourage efforts to reduce harmful gas emissions in the atmosphere. Equipped with two passive infrared spectrometers, MethaneSAT will fill a gap in current satellite capabilities by providing both scale and precision in measuring methane emissions. The project, led by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), recently completed the satellite assembly and is preparing for launch in early March. Methane emissions from human sources contribute significantly to global warming, with oil and gas extraction being a major contributor. Unfortunately, most countries have underestimated the extent of methane emissions from this infrastructure. To address this issue, Google is partnering with EDF to combine science and technology in order to reduce methane emissions. Google Cloud will provide the computing capabilities necessary for processing MethaneSAT’s data stream quickly and securely. By applying AI to satellite imagery, Google will help identify oil and gas infrastructure globally, allowing for accurate attribution of emissions to specific facilities. This information will enable energy companies, researchers, and the public sector to take action more effectively. MethaneSAT’s insights will be made available through its website and Google Earth Engine, facilitating trend detection and understanding of correlations between human activities and environmental impact. With the ability to monitor regions responsible for 80% of global oil and gas production, the satellite will play a crucial role in identifying and reducing the worst methane emissions. The IEA highlights that there are proven methods to prevent methane emissions, and implementing these measures could cut emissions by over 60%. Thus, reducing oil and gas methane emissions presents a significant opportunity for short-term climate action.

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