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OGCI, GHGSat Satellite Monitoring Project in Iraq Helps Tackle Methane Emissions at Oil Fields

OGCI's pilot program with greenhouse gas monitoring company GHGSat and Norwegian climate consultancy Carbon Limits has successfully demonstrated

OGCI's pilot program with greenhouse gas monitoring company GHGSat and Norwegian climate consultancy Carbon Limits has successfully demonstrated that satellite technology has significant potential to tackle methane emissions at oil and gas operations.

Eliminating methane emissions from oil and gas operations is one of the quickest ways to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for around 30% of current global warming. 

The nine-month pilot used GHGSat satellite technology to cover six oil fields in Iraq from late 2021 into 2022. Once methane emissions were detected, OGCI and Carbon Limits engaged with local operators on the ground to help reduce methane emissions by helping to identify emissions sources and relevant available mitigation technology and solutions. 

OGCI Vice President Strategy & Policy Julien Perez said: "This innovative pilot program led by OGCI and GHGSat has clearly shown that satellite technology alongside direct engagement and knowledge sharing with local operators has enormous potential to make significant and cost-effective reductions in methane emissions. 

"Based on the success of this first project, we're expanding the program to 20 additional sites in Iraq, Kazakhstan, Algeria and Egypt."

GHGSat CEO Stephane Germain said: "Working with OGCI has demonstrated that satellite-based emissions monitoring is a cost-effective tool that can help operators deliver tangible reductions in methane emissions from oil and gas facilities.

"This pilot study is important because it shows how collaboration with trusted partners can be applied in the real world and demonstrates how satellite technology can be effectively integrated into broader leak detection and repair campaigns."

Carbon Limits Director Irina Isakova said: "Carbon Limits is proud to support this important project that focuses on concrete action to mitigate methane emissions. 

"Carbon Limits' work engaging with local operators helps build trust and develop the long-term relationships that will be vital to achieve the significant reductions in methane emissions that need to be made to meet the Paris Agreement goals." 

The most common methane emissions sources that were observed were due to gas flaring, direct venting and maintenance events. 

At one large site, operators were able to make improvements in routine procedures to eliminate venting and reduce methane leaks. That cut continuous methane emissions to a level not detectable by satellite over the course of a few months. 

At other sites, the emissions sources took longer to address, and engagement is continuing to ensure all identified methane plumes are addressed.

The satellite pilot program in Iraq is a core part of OGCI's work to achieve global methane emissions reductions across the oil and gas sector.

The OGCI developed the voluntary Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions Initiative, which launched in March 2022 and already has more than 70 signatories and supporters.

OGCI also helped develop the Methane Guiding Principles Flaring Toolkit and supported the update of the Methane Inventory Systematic Tool (Mist) to enable companies to identify, quantify and develop a mitigation plan for their methane emissions.

Notes to Editors:

  • Over the course of the pilot, GHGSat conducted over 175 high-resolution satellite observations over six large oilfields in Iraq.
  • Over 80% of the observations performed by GHGSat were successful. This means they were able to identify and quantify emissions rates, where present, as low as 70 kg of methane per hour.
  • The average emission rate measured across measured sources was around 1.5 tonnes of methane per hour, equivalent to the hourly energy use of 43,000 US homes.

Source: GHGSat

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