A new satellite will use Google’s AI to map methane leaks from space

Key Points:

  • MethaneSAT’s software and spectrometers detect methane concentrations and map oil and gas infrastructure globally.
  • The tool will provide valuable insights into the types of machinery contributing to methane leaks.
  • The use of satellites for monitoring methane emissions can overcome industry opacity and governmental barriers to research.


A collaboration between MethaneSAT and Google is set to revolutionize methane leak detection in the oil and gas industry. MethaneSAT’s sophisticated software and spectrometers will be deployed in orbit to identify methane plumes and map out the industry’s infrastructure globally. By leveraging Google’s image detection algorithms, the project aims to provide invaluable insights into the types of machinery responsible for methane leaks.


This innovative tool addresses a major challenge for methane researchers, particularly in gaining access to information about the numerous oil and gas facilities worldwide. Professor Rob Jackson of Stanford University highlights the significance of this technology in overcoming the industry’s secrecy and restrictions on emissions monitoring. By utilizing satellites for measurements, researchers can bypass many of the obstacles faced on the ground, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of methane sources.


The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in methane detection signifies a pivotal shift in the field, enabling the creation of extensive databases on various infrastructure types. With satellites offering a bird’s eye view of operations, the veil of secrecy surrounding the oil and gas industry may be lifted, prompting increased accountability for methane emissions.


This collaboration emerges against a backdrop of escalating global efforts to combat methane leaks. Following COP28 in December, the Biden administration introduced new regulations mandating stricter monitoring and repair of leaks. Additionally, proposed fines for companies exceeding methane limits indicate a firm stance on emissions control, despite opposition from the industry. Similarly, the European Union has committed to enhanced standards for methane reduction, reflecting a growing consensus on the urgency of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.



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