back to article NASA uses space station dust sensor to map 50 methane 'super-emitters' on Earth

Instruments installed on the International Space Station to examine Earth's atmospheric dust have been found to have another useful purpose: detecting airborne methane plumes contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. NASA's Earth surface Mineral dust source InvesTigation (EMIT ... seriously?) mission was installed on the ISS …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    It's unfortunate

    That NASA isn't naming names. The government certainly has the name(s) of the corporation(s) involved in the US plumes. We have enough visibility into Turkey to name names as well (and I suspect US companies are operating there as primaries or contractors). Iran is, of course another story.

    Plus, while "Top X Lists" are the click bait bane of the internet, a top 10 list of plumes or a list of plumes by country would be useful for climate groups (and I suspect that's why the information was limited).

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: It's unfortunate

      ...naming names.

      When you are talking about Mega-farts per second, then no, it is not something you want to be associated with. We all know that the other guy did it.

      We could dispense with the niceties and simply name big oil, (human) waste and (human) nature as sources. But they will all point fingers next door. See, the other guy did it.

      1. Mark 85

        Re: It's unfortunate

        Sounds like the cow what did quite a bit. Maybe attach a catalytic converter to their exhaust ports? Icon for flaming cows.

        1. Spazturtle Silver badge

          Re: It's unfortunate

          Feed cows a mixed diet and you massively cut down on the amount of methane they produce, or if you want to continue shoveling pure grass or grain into their mouths then inoculate them against the bacteria that make the methane.

          But either way every single carbon atom coming out the back of the animal came from the plants they ate, which in turn got it from the atmosphere, so it's all carbon neutral anyway.

          1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

            Re: It's unfortunate

            Kill the gut microbes and you'd starve the cattle, that's how they can digest the cellulose that we can't. Apparently some types of seaweed in the diet does work wonders though.

            Also the chain is carbon dioxide -> plant matter -> methane. As described in the article that's far from neutral due to the more powerful effect of methane. Even if you allow for some of the carbon going to grow the cow.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: It's unfortunate

              Methane is broken down by sunlight into carbon dioxide and water, but that of course takes time. It is a closed loop, but one which traps infrared as well as chemical bond energy in our environment over the best part of a century.

              It's taken me the last three years to completely remove beef from my diet (I'm focusing on beef because it's the greatest pollutant producer per calorie re. human consumption) and replace it with meat-like non-meat alternatives in such a way that I'll never go back to my old diet. If I'd started that and stuck with it thirty years ago (and I did try in 1989, but the meat-like alternatives available to me at the time were pretty vile, at least to my taste) then only by now would 60% of the global warming consequences of the chain of production leading to that last beefburger or Sunday roast have left the atmosphere (60% because of the way the half-lives of methane and carbon dioxide work).

              Bloody hell, it took me less time to give up smoking (also from 1989) and at least my lungs had fully cleared within ten years of that.

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: It's unfortunate

                "I did try in 1989, but the meat-like alternatives available to me at the time were pretty vile"

                I'm surprised you think they've improved noticeably, tbh. Having been fed all too much of that dreadful stuff at around the time you mention, I find the difference is pretty marginal at best, and more often entirely unnoticeable.

                Whilst I wouldn't say you're definitely wrong, I do note that the COO of BeyondMeat eventually snapped and just couldn't resist chomping down on the real thing:


                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: It's unfortunate

                  >"I did try in 1989, but the meat-like alternatives available to me at the time were pretty vile"

                  We've improved since then. We have these things called fruits AND vegetables

              2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: It's unfortunate

                I'm down to less than once a week, and two days without any type of meat.

                I rarely bother with the meat substitutes, that stuff is firmly in the ultra-processed category.

            2. Spazturtle Silver badge

              Re: It's unfortunate

              Only a few of the gut microbes produce methane, the rest just produce carbon dioxide, there are already vaccines being trialed that prevent the gut microbes that produce methane and they are showing no negative impact on the cow.

              Also the full chain is methane -> carbon dioxide -> plant matter -> methane + carbon dioxide -> carbon dioxide.

        2. NoneSuch Silver badge

          Re: It's unfortunate

          Let's take off and nuke them from orbit.

          It's the only way to be sure.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: It's unfortunate

        Who smelled it, dealt it!

    2. KarMann Silver badge

      Re: It's unfortunate

      N.B. The article currently mentions Turkmenistan, not Turkey, and despite the names, they don't even share a border; Turkmenistan is on the north side of Iran.

    3. choleric

      Re: It's unfortunate

      The stink of it is that this sort of calling out descends into a he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it exchange very quickly, from which no one emerges smelling of roses.

      Far better for NASA just to observe the environment and let the adults send the relevant culprits off to the little room as required.

      Now, where are the adults....

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: It's unfortunate

        It is intellectual dishonesty. I was watching a video about emissions in China. The video was made in the USA. The usual spiel: China is a bigger emitter of pollutants than the USA. But there was no mention in the video about the population of China being 4 times the size of the USA. What next? China is a bigger polluter than Andorra? Well I'm surprised, I tell you. I would never have thought it.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: It's unfortunate

          How much was China making on behalf of the US? Actually, not that much I expect, but indirectly... steel etc.

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: It's unfortunate

      Yeah, and it's a huge mystery what companies are producing in the Permian Basin. Oh, wait.

      Some of the major companies in the USA Permian Basin are Chevron Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp, Occidental Petroleum Corp, ConocoPhillips, Pioneer Natural Resources Co, Chesapeake Energy Corp, Devon Energy Corp, EOG Resources Inc, Endeavor Energy Resources LP, Marathon Oil Corp, Coterra Energy Inc, Continental Resources Inc, and Laredo Petroleum Inc. As of May 2022, Chevron and ExxonMobil have the highest leaseholds in the Permian Basin., "Permian Basin Oil and Gas Shale Market Analysis and Forecast"

      I admit that did take nearly 30 seconds of searching.

      And, no, the data gathered from the ISS would not narrow it down further than that. There's a big plume. Probably all the producers in the area contribute to it.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Not surprising

    >NASA didn't name any of the groups ..., even in New Mexico where the US government has the ability to step in.

    NASA doesn't want to be accused of un-American activities under a future administration

    1. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

      Re: Not surprising

      NASA is no doubt eagerly awaiting "contributions" from various organisations any day now so that their failure to name names might continue.

  3. gecho

    Republicans immediately announced plans to defund NASA.

    1. Mark 85

      So the real source is gasbags in Congress?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Impressive - farts so big they can be seen from space.

    And the wife complains when mine merely make her eyes water.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: 10 years?

      1kg of methane's GHG potential is about 25kgCO2eq.

      Flaring / dumping is basically unforgivable when you could burn it usefully; but lots of places don't.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: 10 years?

        Would seem to make more sense of capture and sell the methane. But I've no idea if the capture part makes economic sense. I'd have to guess it doesn't, otherwise anyone emitting serious quanties would have done this already.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: 10 years?

          Considering the current prices of gas, you'd think it would most definitely be economic but from what I've been reading, it's not the current economics stopping them using it, it's the investment in processing and storage at the point of extraction. Flaring is generally relatively small amounts of gas so they never invested in the plant to process it. Or the local storage is full.

          Maybe the drilling companies should be investing much more of their windfall profits in processing and storage instead of bonuses for the C-suite.

          Waste processing/landfill is a bit more difficult since that's really low density, ie emissions spread over large areas and only really becomes even slightly economically viable when sections of landfill are covered over so the rotting materials emissions can be guides to extraction pipes.

        2. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: 10 years?

          LNG, from methane as a by product of Oil has been running and delivered to the UK since the 1960's. The global supply has expanded massively in last 20 years or so.

          LNG is easier to do from coastal locations than inland, because overland transport is relatively energy and capital intensive; as is the chilling process. Once chilled, moving it in bulk by ship isn't too bad (the losses from boiloff can be used to power the ship).

          No accident that all the significant LNG producers are coastal.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 10 years?

        >1kg of methane's GHG potential is about 25kgCO2eq.

        So burning methane is good for the environment ?

        Texas + Napalm = Green

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: 10 years?

          If you're gonna let it out, yes, burning (preferably in a generator) is better than just dumping to atmosphere.

  6. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    Ars Technica

    Looks like El Reg is going that way.

    1. choleric

      Re: Ars Technica

      Ars Technica wouldn't know a properly snide sub-head if it bit them on the Technica.

  7. Rafael #872397

    Earth surface Mineral dust source InvesTigation (EMIT ... seriously?)

    Yes. It is BAD (Backronyms Are understanDably weird).

  8. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

    Didn't mention

    What about the huge methane plume coming from Westminster? Thanks to all the elected crazies talking out of the wrong 'un.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder how large a plume was released by the Nordstream pipline bombing?

    Not very bright of whichever Western power came up with that idea, was it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wonder how large a plume was released by the Nordstream pipline bombing?

      Not difficult to work out a reasonable estimate of the mass lost. Pressure, probably 120 bar or so. Density - pick an appropriate natural gas mix. Pi R squared L and jobs a good 'un.

      If you really want to scare people, consider how much energy release the rupture equates to. And what that would do if on land; and ignited.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Wonder how large a plume was released by the Nordstream pipline bombing?

        about 7000 tonnes by my reckoning

  10. nemecystt

    Sorry to be a party pooper but

    The jokes about cow farts fall rather flat(ulent). Methane doesn't come out of the back end. It's a bovine burp thing, people. Plus, by itself, methane is odourless. Which is why they need the fancy IR satellite thingummy and not just a horde of roaming noses. Sorry to have caused such a stink.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry to be a party pooper but

      Pity; I was getting ready to make a comment about installing a catalytic converter...

  11. Snowy Silver badge


    Of global Methane is from the growing of rice.

  12. StudeJeff

    Alternative meats

    There IS another way to get meat without the methane from cattle (or killing them).

    What's now being called "cultured meat" is real meat, but grown in a vat kind of like cheese or beer.

    It doesn't need thousands of acers of land, it's clean, there is no chance of parasites, and it's much more humane than raising cattle (or pigs, or chickens) just to kill them for meat.

    It's also far FAR less processed than something like "Beyond Meat".

    There are companies in the US and Israel, and likely other places, working on this, and at least one of those places you can take a tour and taste the meat. Right now one of the biggest roadblocks is getting government approval to sell it.

    And, going into the future it's very unlikely we are going to be taking meat animals into space anytime soon, but one of these facilities could be set up on the moon or Mars.

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