Study offers framework for assessing methane intensity of O&G operators

Published on: Feb 1, 2023

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MEDIA CONTACT: Kelly Vaughn, Carbon Mapper
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February 1, 2023—Pasadena, CA—Growing public awareness on the climate risks of methane from oil and gas, plus the availability of technologically feasible improvements to lower methane emissions from oil and gas supply chains, has put increased pressure on operators to lower their emissions intensity. Many leading oil and gas companies have already established methane intensity targets and are actively participating in programs to improve transparency and accountability. 

Yet, society still lacks an accurate and complete understanding of each operator’s methane footprint and how it changes over time making it difficult for programs — both voluntary and mandatory — to be successfully enforced or enacted. 

A new peer-reviewed study in Environmental Research Letters by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Carbon Mapper and co-authors offers a powerful framework for accurately and transparently assessing the methane emissions intensity across oil and gas operators.

This study represents the first characterization of oil and gas operator emission intensity using empirical datasets and applied data from airborne flights of regions in the Permian Basin conducted in 2019 and 2021 thanks to partners EDF, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Arizona, and RMI.

Key Findings
Data from multiple surveys of the Permian Basin using remote sensing technologies indicate that there is a wide range in emissions intensities among operators, and that these emissions intensities are highly dynamic — changing over time as operators make improvements. 

For instance, nearly half of the operators examined showed major improvement over time, achieving a 50% reduction in high emissions intensity between the 2019 and 2021 campaigns. However, targets for total gas-production normalized upstream emissions intensity were mostly exceeded, demonstrating room for improvement.

Studies like this provide frameworks for operators to successfully leverage data from the growing system of remote methane monitoring technologies to lower the emissions intensity of their operations. The research fills an important gap in observations that are sufficiently complete (meaning they have a robust combination of lower detection limits, wide spatial coverage, and frequent sampling ) and transparent to establish a level playing field for evaluating and comparing trends in methane intensity across oil and gas supply chains. 

Emerging remote sensing technologies — like the first two satellites in the Carbon Mapper Satellite Program, targeting launch in 2023 in coordination with Planet Labs PBC — should further help reduce uncertainties and enable similar quantification studies of the oil and gas sector across multiple basins in the near future.

We encourage you to read the full study, and you can view a blog post from our partners.

About Carbon Mapper
Carbon Mapper is a non-profit organization focused on facilitating timely action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Its mission is to fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data at facility scale that is precise, timely, and accessible to empower science-based decision making and action. The organization is leading the development of the Carbon Mapper constellation of satellites supported by a public-private partnership composed of Planet Labs PBC, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the California Air Resources Board, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and RMI, with funding from High Tide Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Grantham Foundation, and other philanthropic donors. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter @carbonmapper.





Spectroscopy is broadly defined as the study of how electromagnetic energy interacts with matter. There are many different methods that use the principles of spectroscopy to detect, identify, and quantify data about matter including gasses, liquids, and solids.

Spectrometers are instruments that measure this interaction between these different materials and energy.