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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-741
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-741
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 31 Jul 2018

Research article | 31 Jul 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP) and is expected to appear here in due course.

Detecting high-emitting methane sources in oil/gas fields using satellite observations

Daniel H. Cusworth1,2, Daniel J. Jacob1,2, Jian-Xiong Sheng2, Joshua Benmergui2, Alexander J. Turner3, Jeremy Brandman4, Laurent White4, and Cynthia A. Randles4 Daniel H. Cusworth et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, 02138, USA
  • 2School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, 02138, USA
  • 3College of Chemistry/Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 4ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Annandale, NJ, USA

Abstract. Methane emissions from oil/gas fields originate from a large number of relatively small and densely clustered point sources. A small fraction of high-mode emitters can make a large contribution to the total methane emission. Here we conduct observation system simulation experiments (OSSEs) to examine the potential of recently launched or planned satellites to detect and locate these high-mode emitters through measurements of atmospheric methane columns. We simulate atmospheric methane over a generic oil/gas field (20–500 production sites of different size categories in a 50×50km2 domain) for a 1-week period using the WRF-STILT meteorological model with 1.3×1.3km2 horizontal resolution. The simulations consider many random realizations for the occurrence and distribution of high-mode emitters in the field by sampling bi-modal probability density functions (pdfs) of emissions from individual sites. The atmospheric methane fields for each realization are observed virtually with different satellite and surface observing configurations. Column methane enhancements observed from satellites are small relative to instrument precision, even for high-mode emitters, so an inverse analysis is necessary. The inverse analysis can be regularized effectively using a L-1 norm to provide sparse solutions for a bi-modally distributed variable. We find that the recently launched TROPOMI instrument (low Earth orbit, 7×7km2 nadir pixels, daily return time) and the planned GeoCARB instrument (geostationary orbit, 2.7×3.0km2 pixels, 2× or 4×/day return time) are successful at locating high-emitting sources for fields of 20–50 emitters within the 50×50km2 domain but are unsuccessful for denser fields. GeoCARB does not benefit significantly from more frequent observations (4×/day vs. 2×/day) because of temporal error correlation in the inversion. It becomes marginally successful when allowing a 5-km error tolerance for localization. A next-generation geostationary satellite instrument with 1.3×1.3km2 pixels, hourly return time, and 1 ppb precision can successfully detect and locate the high-mode emitters for a dense field with up to 500 sites in the 50×50km2 domain. The capabilities of TROPOMI and GeoCARB can be usefully augmented with a surface air observation network of 5–20 sites, and in turn the satellite instruments increase the detection capability that can be achieved from the surface sites alone.

Daniel H. Cusworth et al.
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Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Interactive discussion
Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement
Daniel H. Cusworth et al.
Daniel H. Cusworth et al.
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Short summary
Methane emissions from oil/gas fields originate from a large number of small and densely clustered point sources. We examine the potential of recently launched or planned satellites to locate these high-mode emitters through measurements of atmospheric methane. We find that the recently launched TROPOMI and the planned GeoCARB instrument are successful at locating high-emitting sources for fields of 20–50 emitters within the 50 × 50 km2 geographic domain but are unsuccessful for denser fields.
Methane emissions from oil/gas fields originate from a large number of small and densely...
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