New Satellite Will Track Biggest Methane Polluters in Fossil Fuel Industry

Mar 11, 2024

Global Methane Emissions by Sectors

A new satellite sent into space to detect methane will start tracking which oil and gas sites are pumping the highest amounts of the planet-warming gas into the air. Methane is one of the world’s most potent greenhouse gases.   

MethaneSAT is a spacecraft that looks like a washing machine with rectangular wings. It was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last week. The plan is for the craft to start sending back data to Earth this summer. Complete reports could come out early next year.

It was built by the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the New Zealand Space Agency. It cost $88 million to build and launch. 

Mark Brownstein told reporters, “This is a tool that could be used to name and shame companies." He's an executive at EDF. But, he instead thinks of it "as a tool that can help document progress.”   

Fifty fossil fuel companies signed a pledge to cut methane emissions to almost zero by 2030. They did so at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.  

The new satellite is not the first spacecraft to track methane emissions. But it is designed to capture the most detailed data yet. Other methane tracking satellites provide lower resolution data. And the focus of some of them is too narrow. MethaneSAT can record even small changes in methane concentrations. It can detect changes as little as three parts per billion.    

The data can also be viewed by the public. Data gathered by other satellites is often private.      

Reflect: How might pinpointing specific sources of methane emissions help reduce their impact on the environment?

What is the author’s purpose in writing this article? (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. to inform readers about a new satellite tracking methane emissions
b. to persuade readers to support space exploration
c. to entertain readers with stories of space adventures
d. to argue against the use of fossil fuels
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

News brought to you by The Juice

Start a free trial today