Gas detection and spectroscopy expert Umicore Coatings Services has called for an immediate focus on methane after a shocking report highlighted how ‘super-emitters’ of the greenhouse gas risk derailing efforts to curb global warming, and could push climate change past the point of no return.
The new report, first published in The Guardian newspaper, highlighted over 1,000 ‘super-emitter’ sites across the world, including 55 ‘methane bombs’ – fossil fuel extraction sites where methane leaks are particularly potent.
Mark Naples, Managing Director of Umicore Coatings Services, reacted with concern to the report’s findings, saying, “The worrying thing about methane isn’t just its potency – it traps around 80-100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – but how hard it is to detect. This is because most human-related leaks come unexpectedly, from accidental leaks during transit or as oil wells are cast. If businesses are not actively monitoring for these leaks, they will likely never even realise it’s happening.
“As this report shows, the scale of these unintended leaks is massive, and their impact on our environment is profound. But how can businesses cut down on emissions if they have no idea they are occurring?”
The report lists Turkmenistan, India, and the USA as having the most ‘super-emitter’ events – predominantly large leaks that occur during oil and gas exploration. The data was gathered by satellites using infrared imaging – something Naples suggests means the real picture is likely to be much worse.
“As water interferes with infrared signals, it’s highly likely that the satellites missed some emissions from offshore sites or sites in very humid climates,” he added. “Laser absorption spectroscopy is a vital tool for detecting methane emissions, but it must be deployed at a local level by governments and businesses on-site – not just in satellites.”
Despite the recent surge in methane emissions – which account for 25% of global warming alone – bringing the world closer to a catastrophic climate tipping point, Naples highlighted that this could be averted by a determined focus on cutting methane emissions.
“The good news is that methane is ‘low-hanging fruit’ – cutting it will have a big, and rapid, impact on global warming - as despite its potency as a greenhouse gas, methane dissipates in the atmosphere relatively quickly. By making use of enhanced spectroscopic sensors to detect and prevent emissions, we can turn this around – but time is running out, and we need to act fast.”
Umicore Coating Services is a renowned expert in the design, development, and manufacture of thin-film optical coating solutions from 2µm to 14µm wavelengths across a variety of substrates. Based in a state-of-the-art facility in Eastern Scotland, it has grown into an authority on laser absorption spectroscopy for gas detection since its inception in 1989.