Canadian emissions monitoring company GHGSat has launched a satellite named Vanguard with the aim of detecting carbon dioxide emissions from individual facilities such as coal plants and steel mills from space. This marks the first time that such emissions will be detected from space. The satellite was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
GHGSat’s satellite data is available for sale to industrial emitters who are looking to reduce their emissions, as well as to governments and scientists. Vanguard will add to the existing network of satellites that are already able to detect plumes of methane, an invisible greenhouse gas that is difficult to identify due to its tendency to leak from various small sources like pipelines, drill sites, and farms.
Carbon dioxide is responsible for nearly 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, primarily from large industrial sources such as power plants. However, current satellite monitoring of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not focus on facility-level emissions. The data collected by Vanguard will help validate the common practices of monitoring and measuring carbon dioxide emissions. The CEO of GHGSat, Stephane Germain, stated that having a direct measurement of the entire facility from a satellite will act as a validation.
Satellite observations have already shown that methane emissions are higher than estimated, and Germain believes the same may be true for carbon dioxide emissions. The information collected will contribute to the accuracy of government emissions inventories, scientific modeling, and the quality of corporate greenhouse gas reporting for investors.