How Google will use AI to identify methane gas leaks from space |


Google and other companies that are working on development of AI have advocated the use of the technology in various fields, including healthcare, cybersecurity and education. One of use cases that Google is working on is the use of AI to help the environment and as a part of this, it has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to launch a satellite project in March that will gather data on global methane levels.
Called MethaneSAT, the satellite will track emissions of methane, which is said to be a significant contributor to global warming due to its heat-trapping properties and is considered to be a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.Meanwhile, Google is using AI to map oil and gas infrastructure to create a global map of pollution sources.
How satellite will collect data and Google’s role
MethaneSAT will orbit 300 miles about the Earth, 15 times per day and will focus on methane emissions from oil and gas facilities. Although methane is also produced by farming and waste, the project aims to identify leaks in oil and gas infrastructure as firms extracting oil and gas regularly burn or vent methane.
“Infrastructure changes rapidly, and keeping a map like this up to date requires constant input. But this is something that we in our maps and geo organisation, we’ve built up a lot of expertise,” said Yael Maguire, vice president and general manager of Google’s Geo Sustainability team.
“We think this information is incredibly valuable for energy companies, researchers, and the public sector to anticipate and mitigate methane emissions,” Maguire added.
Data from the satellite will be available later this year and Google will provide the computing capabilities to process the information. This data will be overlayed with the AI-generated methane map that Google has created to assist in understanding which types of oil and gas equipment tend to leak most.
“Methane dominates what’s happening in the near term. The timing really matters. Because if we do it really quickly and dramatically reduce those methane emissions, we can significantly reduce that rate of warming over the coming decades,” added Steven Hamburg, chief scientist at EDF.
The information will be available through Google Earth Engine, a geospatial analysis platform, later this year. Google won’t directly notify companies of leaks.


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