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Geospatial Insight project helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

NEWS: Project with University of Leicester focuses on detecting methane gas emissions

Funding from national SPRINT programme provides access to Earth Observation data analysis expertise from University of Leicester

Geospatial Insight, one of Europe’s leading providers of geospatial intelligence, has completed a major project with the University of Leicester to develop new methodologies for detecting methane gas emissions and further reduce physical, financial or environmental risk for global businesses. The project, funded by the national SPRINT business support programme, has enabled Geospatial Insight to work with experts from the University of Leicester on Earth Observation (EO) data analysis of high resolution satellite imagery.

Working with the University of Leicester, Geospatial Insight developed new processing methods and tools to detect methane from satellite imagery in a more robust, reliable and commercially viable manner. Geospatial Insight provides information and intelligence products and services to the energy, financial trading and insurance sectors, and these Earth Observation data processing techniques have enabled the company’s clients to detect methane leakage and to take mitigating actions. Further analysis is now planned to improve quantification of leakage concentration and volume measurement.

The project is funded by a grant from the £4.8 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

The Earth Observation Science Group of the University of Leicester has extensive expertise in Earth Observation methods, instrumentation and applications. It is one of the leading groups worldwide on greenhouse gas remote sensing. The Group has access to state-of-the-art simulation tools including radiative transfer and spectral retrieval software, as well as EO datasets.

Dave Fox, CEO of Geospatial Insight said: “Methane, the main component of natural gas, can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period if it escapes into the atmosphere before being burned. Energy companies are therefore interested at the highest levels in reducing leakage. We believe that a big breakthrough can be achieved through methane plume detection and quantification from multispectral satellite imagery.

“The research undertaken with the University of Leicester via SPRINT has clearly demonstrated the potential for Maxar WorldView-3 data to be used as a reliable source for the detection of methane leakage. To develop the concept further, we’re moving the research towards something that can be operationally deployed. The next stage of the project is to measure how much we can increase the reliability of detecting methane. SPRINT is ideal to fill the gap in our research capabilities by offering a very specific skillset in academic research that is very difficult for other commercial partners to match.”

Hartmut Boesch, Professor in Earth Observation at the University of Leicester added: “We have been working for many years on methane research from space-based data. The SPRINT programme provides us with a fantastic mechanism with which to work in partnership with Geospatial Insight to translate our science expertise and tools into novel applications that will help to tackle the pressing environmental challenges of methane emissions from the energy sector.”

Picture caption: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies. Analysis ©2019 Geospatial Insight Limited.