Widespread Frequent Methane Emissions From the Oil and Gas Industry in the Permian Basin

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Emissions of methane (CH4) in the Permian basin (USA) have been derived for 2019 and 2020 from satellite observations of the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) using the divergence method, in combination with a data driven method to estimate the background column densities. The resulting CH4 emission data, which have been verified using model data with known emissions, have a spatial resolution of approximately 10 km. The CH4 emissions show moderate spatial correlation with the locations of oil and gas production and drilling activities in the Permian basin, as well as with emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). Analysis of the emission maps and time series indicates that a significant fraction of methane emissions in the Permian basin is from frequent widespread emissions sources, rather than from a few infrequent very large unplanned releases, which is important considering possible CH4 emission mitigation strategies. In addition to providing spatially resolved emissions, the divergence method also provides the total emissions of the Permian basin and its main sub-basins. The total CH4 emission of the Permian is estimated as 3.0 ± 0.7 Tg yr−1 for 2019, which agrees with other independent estimates based on TROPOMI data. For the Delaware sub-basin, it is estimated as 1.4 ± 0.3 Tg yr−1 for 2019, and for the Midland sub-basin 1.2 ± 0.3 Tg yr−1. In 2020 the emissions are 9% lower compared to 2019 in the entire Permian basin, and respectively 19% and 27% for the Delaware and Midland sub-basins.