NM has new plan for monitoring Permian methane totals: satellites

By Descartes Labs | September 24, 2019

Descartes Labs has announced the development of a methane-detection model designed to help New Mexico better monitor harmful emissions as a means of implementing a strategic mitigation policy. Working in collaboration with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2030 goals, the “Data Refinery” will use data from space-based satellites and other public and private sources to create mapping and modeling capabilities to detect methane in the state.

The Permian Basin, which spans more than 86,000 square miles across southeastern New Mexico and West Texas and is the highest producing oilfield in the world, will be the initial area that is mapped—with plans to expand statewide. Large-scale monitoring of methane can help oil and gas companies improve their management of emissions and guide state inspectors to potential problem areas on a near-real-time basis making their job responsibilities safer and more efficient.

At a recent 2030 Summit hosted by the Governor to bring together industry leaders across the political spectrum to collaboratively address state-wide sustainability goals, Descartes made the announcement of its new data refinery efforts. While at the Summit, Grisham commended Descartes Labs’ intention to contribute to the broader effort of ensuring the state of New Mexico is on track to meet environmental benchmarks established through both executive order and legislation, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

“Setting a goal is only a first step,” Grisham said. “We have to do the work of meeting those goals, and I’m excited to see our New Mexican private sector partners, like Descartes Labs, stepping into the arena. Improved technology is a critical pathway toward executing our vision, and I want New Mexico on the cutting edge.”

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is thought to trap 28 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide over 100 years. One of the challenges with methane is the historical lack of reliable tools for large scale detection and measurement. The development of a new large-scale methane monitoring capability is a key outcome of the 2030 Summit that puts the state on the path to effectively track greenhouse gas emissions.

“Space-based methane detection using the Sentinel-5P satellite is cutting-edge technology. New Mexico will be a leader by implementing this model,” said Laura Mazzaro, Applied Scientist at Descartes Labs. “There are several new publicly available satellites scheduled to be launched with higher resolution capabilities between 2020 and 2022, so a path to more detailed measurements is just around the corner. The state can really get a head start on its greenhouse gas reduction goals by building out this capability now.”

"For New Mexico to reach its methane reduction goals, it's critical to first understand the problem. The Descartes Labs Data Refinery can pull data from satellites, planes, drones, and ground sensors so that inspectors will be able to pinpoint sources and alert well owners to the problem. This is what it looks like when data informs policy," said Mark Johnson, CEO, Descartes Labs.

Descartes Labs uses its Data Refinery to build a digital twin of the planet. The company processes data from all the major NASA and ESA satellite constellations at scale to provide instant access to analysis-ready images of the entire world via a massive, searchable, on-demand interface. Based on a cloud-based supercomputer for the application of machine intelligence to massive data sets, the Descartes Labs data refinery delivers the next generation of global-scale machine learning analytics to sectors ranging from energy and agriculture to large-scale industry and government.