The worst nightmare of the oil and gas industry has come true: environmental groups are using satellites to observe and report greenhouse gas emissions from their well pads.
The Environmental Defense Fund, Harvard University, Georgia Tech and the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research used a European Space Agency detector to take 200,000 readings across the 61,000 square-mile Permian Basin. The average rate of methane emissions had recently doubled, according to data published in the journal Science Advances.
Methane is a far more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Well operators release it while drilling and completing a well, but it also leaks from malfunctioning equipment. Some environmentalists want to ban new natural gas wells because the industry does not control methane leaks.
EDF’s data paint drillers in a poor light.