(Reuters) – Canadian emissions monitoring company GHGSat launched a satellite on Saturday aimed at detecting carbon dioxide emissions from individual facilities such as coal-fired power plants and steel mills for the first time from space.
The satellite, named Vanguard, was launched from Vandenberg Space Station in California, GHGSat said.
Space age technology is increasingly being used to hold polluting industries accountable for their contribution to climate change. GHGSat data is available for sale to industrial transmitters who want to reduce their emissions, as well as to governments and scientists.
Vanguard will build on the growing network of satellites that already spot plumes of methane, an invisible greenhouse gas that is difficult to detect because it tends to escape from a range of small sources, including pipelines, sites drilling and farms.
Carbon dioxide accounts for nearly 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States and tends to enter the atmosphere from large industrial sources like power plants. Satellites that monitor carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are not currently focused on facility-level emissions, GHGSat said.
The data collected by Vanguard will help support common practices for monitoring and measuring carbon dioxide emissions, according to Stéphane Germain, CEO of Montreal-based GHGSat.
“Often what we find is a mixture of direct measurements and estimates. So having a direct measurement of the entire facility from a satellite will serve as validation,” Germain said in an interview .
Satellites have already shown that methane emissions are far higher than estimated and Germain said he suspects the same is true for carbon dioxide.
This information will help strengthen the accuracy of government emissions inventories and scientific modeling and improve the quality of corporate greenhouse gas reporting for investors, GHGSat said.