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Countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement committed to keeping the rise in average global temperatures “well below” 2°C. Every five years, they must issue so-called “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), describing their actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Therefore, countries will need to track them carbon emissions not only at the national level, but also at the scale of individual “super emitters” such as power plantsmegacities, oil refineries and giant factories are together responsible for nearly half of humanity’s total greenhouse gas production.

At the end of 2025 or in 2026, the EU plans to launch its “CO2M” (Copernicus Anthropogenic CO2 Monitoring Mission) a pair of satellites whose task will be to help in this.

Important proof of principle for CO2M

But scientists have now shown that such source tracking is already possible, even with existing satellites, for “super emitters” like Belkhatov power plant in Poland. To confirm this principle, they used five years of measurements from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2; launched in 2014) and the OCO-3 instrument, which has been attached to the International Space Station (ISS) since 2019. .

This success is an important achievement since the OCO missions were designed to measure carbon threw out on much larger spatial scales.

“Here we show for the first time that it is already possible to measure CO changes2 emissions from a large power plant, with observations from existing CO2-tracking satellites,” said Dr. Ray Nassar, an atmospheric scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, and first author of the study, published in Limits of remote sensing.

The largest power plant in Europe

The Belkhatov thermal power plant, which operates on lignite (brown coal), is the largest thermal power plant in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. Here, units are sometimes taken out of service and new ones are put into operation, and more often units are temporarily stopped for maintenance. To be useful, satellites and instruments such as OCO-2 and OCO-3 must immediately detect changes in CO2 emissions due to these changes in work – and this is where Nassar and his colleagues first showed that they could.

CO2 emitted by the 300-meter stacks in Belkhatov and carried by the wind in the form of an invisible plume approximately 10–50 km long and 550 meters above the Earth. OCO-2, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of 705 km, flies next to or directly over Belkhatov every 16 days. OCO-3 orbits at an altitude of 420 km and often passes over or near Belkhatov. The OCO-3 has the added ability to scan back and forth across a region, providing better local coverage or a wider view.

Not every flyover or overpass is suitable

Satellites can estimate CO2 “enhancement” is an additional CO2 emitted by the source – only in the absence of clouds and if the plume does not pass over large bodies of water or mountains. They measure “XCO2”, average CO2 concentration in the column directly below it, subtracting the current background value (average 415 ppm) around the plume.

Together, OCO-2 and OCO-3 provided 10 usable CO data sets2 plume over Belkhatuv between 2017 and 2022.

Excellent agreement between observed and predicted data

The researchers compared measurements from space with estimates of Bełchatów’s emissions based on known daily electricity production. The measurements were found to closely track the daily forecasts. This proves that even today, existing satellites can track emissions in near real time for installations like Belkhatov. For example, OCO-2 found a pronounced but short-lived drop in emissions from Belkhatov between June and September 2021 due to maintenance shutdowns.

Everything is clear for CO2M

The results are promising: they show that CO2M, with a combined spatial coverage of about one hundred times that of OCO-2 and OCO-3, will be able to meet future needs.

“The ability to get the most accurate information about CO2 emissions from ‘super-emitters’ like the Belkhatov Power Plant will increase the transparency of carbon accounting around the world and hopefully ultimately help reduce those emissions,” Nassar said.

“This future capacity will lead to improved CO2 information on emissions at the scale of countries, cities or individual sites, increasing transparency under the Paris Agreement and supporting efforts to reduce emissions that cause climate change.’

Satellites detected a plume of methane from the Nord Stream leak

Additional information:
Tracking CO2 Emissions Reductions from Space: Case Study of Europe’s Largest Fossil Fuel Power Plant Limits of remote sensing (2022). DOI: 10.3389/frsen.2022.1028240

Citation: Real-time space observations can now monitor ‘super emitter’ power plants (October 28, 2022) Retrieved October 28, 2022, from super- emitter power.html

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