Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2020
Safeguarding the planet and New Mexico’s Oil & Gas production
In 2019, the Permian Basin produced more oil than any other oil field on the planet. For the State of New Mexico, this translates to billions of dollars in revenue per year. But this economic boon is threatened by environmental risks and costs. One of those risks is a by-product of shale development: the potential to release methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is thought to trap 28 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide as measured over 100 years. In order to continue producing oil in New Mexico in an environmentally responsible way, methane releases must be minimized.
Methane is often leaked by accident in the course of well operations. Once detected, many leaks are easy and inexpensive to address. But methane is invisible and there are thousands of wells spread across 86,000 square miles on the New Mexico side of the Permian Basin alone. For state inspectors, who may number in the dozens or less, and often oil & gas producers themselves, leaks are a veritable needle in a haystack. Methane can be detected using infrared technology, and operators do fly surveys looking for leaks. But the costs of doing so are significant, thus limiting these surveys to small areas or just a couple passes per year.
In a collaboration with the State of New Mexico, Descartes Labs developed a cost-effective, satellite-based methane detector that covers the entire Permian Basin every two weeks. Challenges associated with using satellite technology for methane detection are myriad, and Descartes Labs’ platform is critical to this solution in that it enables real-time data ingestion, processing, fusion of multiple satellite and weather sources, and AI-based analytics.