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Real-time space observations can now keep an eye on ‘super emitter’ power plants

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Countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement have committed to keeping the average global temperature rise “well below” 2°C. Every five years, they must issue a so-called “nationally determined contribution” (NDC), which outlines their actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Therefore, countries need to track their carbon emissions not only at the national level, but also at the scale of individual “super emitters” such as power plants, megacities, refineries, and giant factories, which together account for nearly half of carbon emissions. total human production. from GRK.

By the end of 2025 or 2026, the EU plans to launch “CO2M” (Copernicus Anthropogenic CO2 Monitoring Mission) a pair of satellites, the task of which will assist in this.

Essential proof of principle for CO2M

But now, scientists have shown that tracking such sources is already possible, even with existing satellites, for “super beggars” like the Bełchatów power station in Poland. For this proof of principle, they used five-year measurements from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 satellite (OCO-2; launched in 2014) and the OCO-3 instrument, which was installed since 2019 to the International Space Station (ISS). .

This success is a significant achievement, as the OCO mission is designed to measure carbon emissions on a much larger spatial scale.

“Here we show for the first time that it is possible to measure changes in CO2 emissions from large power plants, with CO2 observations. which exists2-satellite trackers,” said Dr. Ray Nassar, atmospheric scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, and first author of the study, published in Limitations in Remote Sensing.

Europe’s largest power plant

The Bełchatów lignite (lignite) power plant is the largest thermal power plant in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. Here, units sometimes fail and new units are put into use, while more often the units are temporarily closed 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 operating changes, and here, Nassar and colleagues demonstrate for the first time that they can.

TOGETHER2 it is emitted from a 300-meter-high chimney at Bełchatów and carried by the wind in the form of an invisible plume, about 10 to 50 km long and 550 meters above Earth. OCO-2, which orbits Earth at an altitude of 705 km, passes near or directly over Bełchatów every 16 days. OCO-3 orbits at an altitude of 420 km and more often passes over or near Bełchatów. The OCO-3 has the added ability to scan forward and backward in an area, providing better local coverage or a wider view.

Not all flyovers or overpasses are suitable

Satellites can assess CO2 “upgrade”: additional CO2 emitted by a source, only when there are no clouds and when the jet does not pass through a large body of water or mountain range. They measure “XCO2”, the average CO2 concentration in the column directly below, reducing the current background value (locally, 415 ppm on average) around the plume.

Together, OCO-2 and OCO-3 produce 10 good datasets on CO2 Penacho sobre Bełchatów entry 2017 y 2022.

Excellent agreement between observed and predicted data

The researchers compared measurements from space with estimates of emissions from Bełchatów, based on known daily power generation outputs. These measurements turned out to closely follow the daily predictions. This shows that even today’s existing satellites can track emissions in almost real time for facilities like Bełchatów. For example, OCO-2 detected a sharp but temporary decline in emissions from Bełchatów between June and September 2021, due to maintenance shutdowns.

All clear for CO2M

The results are promising: they show that CO2M, with a combined spatial coverage of about one hundred times greater than 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’, such as the Bełchatów power plant, around the world will promote transparency in carbon accounting and hopefully ultimately help reduce these emissions,” said Nassar.

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


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Further information:

Tracking Reducing CO2 Emissions from Space: A Case Study at Europe’s Largest Fossil Fuel Power Plant, Frontiers in Remote Sensing (2022). DOI: 10.3389/frsen.2022.1028240

Quote: Real Time Space Observation Can Now Monitor ‘Super Emitter’ Power Generation (28 October 2022) Retrieved 28 October 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-real-time-space-super-emitter-power. html

This document is subject to copyright. Other than fair dealing for personal study or research purposes, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.

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