10 Nov 2022
 | 10 Nov 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Continuous weekly monitoring of methane emissions from the Permian Basin by inversion of TROPOMI satellite observations

Daniel J. Varon, Daniel J. Jacob, Benjamin Hmiel, Ritesh Gautam, David R. Lyon, Mark Omara, Melissa Sulprizio, Lu Shen, Drew Pendergrass, Hannah Nesser, Zhen Qu, Zachary R. Barkley, Natasha L. Miles, Scott J. Richardson, Kenneth J. Davis, Sudhanshu Pandey, Xiao Lu, Alba Lorente, Tobias Borsdorff, Joannes D. Maasakkers, and Ilse Aben

Abstract. We quantify weekly methane emissions at 0.25°×0.3125° (≈25×25 km2) resolution from the Permian Basin, the largest oil production basin in the United States, by inverse analysis of satellite observations from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) from May 2018 to October 2020. The mean oil and gas emission from the region (± standard deviation of weekly estimates) was 3.7 ± 0.9 Tg a-1, higher than previous TROPOMI inversion estimates that may have used too-low prior emissions or biased background assumptions. We find strong week-to-week variability in emissions superimposed on longer-term trends, and these are consistent with independent inferences of temporal emission variability from tower, aircraft, and multispectral satellite data. New well development and local natural gas spot price were significant drivers of variability in emissions over our study period, but the concurrent 50 % increase in oil and gas production was not. The methane intensity (methane emitted per unit of methane gas produced) averaged 4.6 % ± 1.3 % and steadily decreased over the period from 5–6 % in 2018 to 3–4 % in 2020. While the decreasing trend suggests improvement in operator practices during the study period, methane emissions from the Permian Basin remained high, with methane intensity an order of magnitude above recent industry targets of <0.2 %. Our success in using TROPOMI satellite observations for weekly estimates of emissions from a major oil production basin shows promise for application to near-real-time monitoring in support of climate change mitigation efforts.

Daniel J. Varon et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-749', Anonymous Referee #1, 24 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-749', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 Feb 2023
  • AC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-749: Responses to reviews', Daniel Varon, 23 Mar 2023

Daniel J. Varon et al.

Daniel J. Varon et al.


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Short summary
Over 100 countries plan to cut their methane emissions by 30 % this decade under the 2021 Global Methane Pledge. The oil and gas industry is a high priority for emission reductions, but the temporal variability of oil/gas methane emissions is poorly understood. We used satellite observations to quantify weekly oil/gas methane emissions from the U.S. Permian Basin. We find that Permian emissions are highly variable and stronger than previously known, with diverse economic and activity drivers.