National quantifications of methane emissions from fuel exploitation using high resolution inversions of satellite observations

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Scientists use infrared satellite imagery to measure human emissions of climate-warming methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane emissions from fossil fuel sources has been identified as an important target for climate policy. Yet currently global emissions from oil and gas as measured by satellite are higher than reported, likely because they are under reported by the biggest emitters of methane: the US, Russia, Venezuela, and Turkmenistan.

Abstract: Reducing methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation (oil, gas, coal) is an important target for climate policy, but current national emission inventories submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are highly uncertain. Here we use 22 months (May 2018-Feb 2020) of satellite observations from the TROPOMI instrument to better quantify national emissions worldwide by inverse analysis at up to 50 km resolution. We find global emissions of 62.7 ± 11.5 (2σ) Tg a−1 for oil-gas and 32.7 ± 5.2 Tg a−1 for coal. Oil-gas emissions are 30% higher than the global total from UNFCCC reports, mainly due to under-reporting by the four largest emitters including the US, Russia, Venezuela, and Turkmenistan. Eight countries have methane emission intensities from the oil-gas sector exceeding 5% of their gas production (20% for Venezuela, Iraq, and Angola), and lowering these intensities to the global average level of 2.4% would reduce global oil-gas emissions by 11 Tg a−1 or 18%.

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