NASA space technology data is used to identify the sources of CO2 emissions

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Observations from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 and 3 missions were used to pinpoint the carbon dioxide emissions of one coal-fired power plant.

According to a recent study, data from NASA’s space-based Earth observation technology helped identify and track carbon dioxide emissions at one facility, allowing researchers to detect changes in carbon dioxide production at that facility.

In the message NASA said the study, which focused on Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant and largest single emitter, demonstrated that space-based observations can be used to track CO2 emissions by source. This is important because large facilities such as power plants and oil refineries account for about half of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, according to the report.

In particular, two Earth observation missions — Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 and 3 — allowed researchers to “detect and monitor changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a single facility using the world’s fifth-largest coal-fired power plant as a test case,” says the message of NASA.

These missions allowed researchers to determine the amount of CO2 emitted hundreds of miles below at the Belchatow Power Plant in Poland. The researchers analyzed plumes of emissions from the plant via satellite from 2017 to 2022 and found changes in CO2 levels that were consistent with hourly fluctuations in power generation, as well as temporary or permanent shutdowns for maintenance or decommissioning that reduced plant emissions. According to the announcement, this indicates that observations from space can be used to track changes in CO2 emissions at the local level.

NASA’s OCO-2 satellite, launched in 2014, maps natural and anthropogenic CO2 emissions at regional and continental scales. In particular, “the device indirectly samples the gas by measuring the intensity of sunlight reflected from the Earth’s surface and absorbed by carbon dioxide in the column of air from the ground to the satellite. OCO-2 spectrometers are configured to detect specific features of CO2 gas.” Additional components from OCO-2 were used to create OCO-3, which has flown on the International Space Station since 2019. It is “designed with a mapping mode that can take several broad observations as the space station passes over an area, allowing researchers to create detailed city-scale mini-maps of an area of ​​interest.”

“No OCO instrument was originally designed specifically to detect emissions from single objects like Belkhatuv, so the new findings are a ‘pleasant surprise,'” said Abhishek Chatterjee, project scientist for the OCO-3 mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in South California. in the announcement. “As a community, we are improving tools and techniques to be able to extract more insights from data than we originally intended. We learn that we can actually understand much more about anthropogenic [спричинені людиною] emissions than we previously expected.”

The Belkhatov power station is the world’s largest lignite-fired power station, with a capacity of approximately 5,102 megawatts. The report notes that lignite typically has higher emissions per megawatt than anthracite or hard coal. Accordingly, the Polish government proposed plans to close the power plant by the end of 2036.

The study’s lead author, Ray Nassar, a senior scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, said in a statement that most reports of CO2 emissions “are based on estimates or data collected at the earth’s surface” and “generally do not give the actual value of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”. measurement”.

“More detailed information about when and where emissions occur is often not available,” Nassar said. “Providing a more detailed picture of carbon dioxide emissions can help track the effectiveness of policies to reduce emissions. Our approach with OCO-2 and OCO-3 can be applied to more power plants or modified for carbon emissions by cities or countries.”

Observations in the OCO-3 mapping mode may allow the data to be more widely used in the future to quantify source-specific CO2 emissions. According to NASA, OCO-3 will operate for another five to six years and will be used in conjunction with the investigation of the source of mineral dust on the surface of the Earth on the space station.

OCO-2 and OCO-3 are operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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