Russian coal mines: Satellites observe a huge amount of methane released


A private company that uses satellites to detect global sources of methane emissions says it has detected one of the largest anthropogenically strong releases of greenhouse gases, coming from a mine. coal in Russia earlier this year.

Montreal-based GHGSat said one of its satellites, known as ‘Hugo,’ observed 13 plumes of methane at the Raspadskaya field in Siberia on Jan. 14. The incident is likely to lead to approximately 90 tons of methane are released into the atmosphere in space. of an hour, the company calculates.

“This is a really, really impressive emission,” Brody Wight, GHGSat’s director of energy, landfill and mines told The Associated Press.

Cutting methane emissions caused by fossil fuel facilities has become a priority for governments looking to take quick, effective steps against climate change. That’s because methane is the strongest heat-trapping gas second only to carbon dioxide, staying in the atmosphere longer.

The GHGSat said the gas plumes discovered at Raspadskaya may have been intentionally released, as a safety measure, as the gas could seep out of the mine and ignite with the potential to cause death. Two methane explosions and a fire killed 91 people at the mine in 2010, one of the worst post-Soviet disasters.

Companies can prevent uncontrolled methane emissions through best practices. The captured gas can be burned as fuel, reducing its global warming impact.

GHGSat said it measured more beams over the mine during subsequent flyovers in the following weeks, although they did not reach the same “emission pole” scale seen on January 14.

“Even if it’s only for a short period of time, it doesn’t take long for this to be a significant emission,” says Wight.

Manfredi Caltagirone, head of the International Methane Emissions Observatory at the United Nations Environment Program, said he is not aware of any larger methane emissions from a coal mine.

“If this event were the result of a buildup of methane being released all at once rather than over several days, the environmental impact would be the same as if a smaller plume was released continuously over a period of time,” Caltagirone said. some days. , who did not participate in the GHGSat observation.

“But from a safety perspective it’s worrisome,” he said, citing recent landmine explosions in Poland that killed 13 people.

However, the release could be a very rare event or else other methane-measuring satellites would pick them up too, Caltagirone said.

GHGSat said it informed mine operator Raspadskaya of its discovery, but received no response. The operator also did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.

A number of private and government satellites have been launched into orbit in recent years to help pinpoint methane leaks and raise awareness of the risks they pose to the gas. health and well-being of the people.

In one of the most widely publicized methane leaks in the United States, a 2015 gas explosion at a natural gas storage facility in California sickened residents of the San Fernando Valley and left 8,000 The house must be evacuated.


The Associated Press’s climate and environment coverage is supported by a number of private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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