Satellite-based survey of extreme methane emissions in the Permian basin

Sci Adv. 2021 Jun 30;7(27):eabf4507. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abf4507. Print 2021 Jun.


Industrial emissions play a major role in the global methane budget. The Permian basin is thought to be responsible for almost half of the methane emissions from all U.S. oil- and gas-producing regions, but little is known about individual contributors, a prerequisite for mitigation. We use a new class of satellite measurements acquired during several days in 2019 and 2020 to perform the first regional-scale and high-resolution survey of methane sources in the Permian. We find an unexpectedly large number of extreme point sources (37 plumes with emission rates >500 kg hour-1), which account for a range between 31 and 53% of the estimated emissions in the sampled area. Our analysis reveals that new facilities are major emitters in the area, often due to inefficient flaring operations (20% of detections). These results put current practices into question and are relevant to guide emission reduction efforts.