The Canadian company GHGSAT Inc. has launched three new satellites, further expanding its commercial monitoring service. Two of the satellites will measure methane emissions from industrial sources, while the third will focus on quantifying carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, factories, and other facilities worldwide. GHGSAT’s data will enable governments, businesses, and organizations to access an up-to-date global snapshot of carbon dioxide emissions, which are considered the primary driver of climate change.
The measurement of carbon dioxide emissions from localized sources poses a technical challenge due to the molecule’s widespread and evenly distributed nature. However, GHGSAT’s new satellite will be the first to measure carbon dioxide at a commercial scale from a purpose-designed satellite. It will provide detailed data on emissions from individual industrial sites, including power utilities, steel mills, fertilizer plants, and cement production facilities.
While the satellite shares a basic design with GHGSAT’s methane observing satellites, it will take time to gather the initial measurements and assess its capabilities. If successful, the satellite will be able to measure instantaneous carbon dioxide concentrations in locations as small as 30 x 30 meters. GHGSAT aims to have multiple carbon dioxide detecting satellites in orbit to support its methane observations.
Satellites have been used previously to detect carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources, but GHGSAT’s technology offers more precise and targeted measurements of specific sites. The detailed view of emissions provided by GHGSAT’s satellites may lead to more cost-efficient emission reduction strategies. Additionally, the technology can help governments of developing countries that lack resources for accurate monitoring of their domestic carbon dioxide emissions.
In the long term, satellite measurements will contribute to assessing the success of different countries and emitters in reducing emissions. The availability of real-time data may encourage greater accountability and compliance in international climate talks.