From fall 2019 to late 2020, EDF and our research partners are using data from satellites, helicopters, aircraft, vehicles and towers to document the volume of methane emitted across our study area.
To ensure reliable data, we are collecting methane emissions in three ways: from the air, from towers and on the ground. The data will be cross-referenced with forthcoming TROPOMI satellite data in order to determine an estimate of methane volumes across the Permian Basin.
Our team of atmospheric scientists will spend approximately 100 days in the air surveying the study area.

Our measurements are taken in a 10,000 square-kilometer grid that spans the Delaware Basin, a subsection of the broader Permian Region. This high-producing area contains only 10% of the region’s active wells and produces 40% of its oil and gas.Over 100 different companies operate the 11,000 wells in the study area. They range from big operators like Exxon, Shell and Chevron, to midsize players like Occidental Petroleum, and small independents that may only own one or two wells each.
From the AirA team of scientists with EDF and Scientific Aviation first began collecting data in late fall of 2019. Throughout the year, they will fly approximately 100 days and complete approximately three surveys of the study area.Some flight paths are large, encompassing the full basin. Others are much smaller in scale, with the goal of zeroing in on a cluster of randomly selected sites. Using methane sensors and the mass balance approach, our scientists identify and quantify areas with high emissions levels and estimate leak rates across the study area. Sites will be surveyed multiple times through the study period so that we can track changes and emissions improvements over timeWe are also working with Leak Surveys Inc., a veteran leak detection company used by operators across the country, to gain insights about flare performance and emissions.LSI is using a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera to conduct a random survey of hundreds of flares across the entire Permian Basin to determine their impact on the region’s methane levels.
From TowersMethane sensors installed at five towers across the study area are continuously measuring methane concentration on a 24-7 basis. Using an atmospheric transport model, Pennsylvania State University researchers will be able to draw conclusions about how methane moves across the region over time. This will provide us with quarterly estimates of the region’s total methane emissionsFrom the GroundThe University of Wyoming leads the ground team. Equipped with a mobile methane detection vehicle and an infrared camera, they randomly survey several dozen sites to identify the specific locations and equipment that may be emitting abnormal volumes of methane.This approach will allow us to measure lower, site-level emissions that may not be detectable by aircraft so that our scientists can draw conclusions about the cause of emissions and specific company performance. The ground team will also gather data on volatile organic compounds emitted from oil and gas facilities.From SpaceWe are cross referencing our data with data gathered from the TROPOMI satellite, which shows the highest emissions ever measured from a major U.S. oil and gas basin.
Verifying the findingsWe’re using proven scientific methods to measure methane, and intend to publish our results in peer-reviewed scientific journals.Because verifying the accuracy of the data is so crucial, an independent scientific advisory panel is reviewing our methods.ADVISORY PANEL MEMBERSAdam Brandt, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CaliforniaMary Kang, McGill University, Québec, Montréal, CanadaAnthony Marchese, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, ColoradoEric Kort, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Sharing the resultsOnce verified, all data will be available to the public at permianmap.org.
The Operator Performance DashboardThe Operator Performance Dashboard is designed to provide oil and gas companies, and other Permian Basin stakeholders, with near real-term data about operator performance as well as the location of measured methane events. We are also sending this data directly to the responsible companies so they can make immediate operational Improvements to decrease emissions.This data is preliminary and will be updated through the end of 2020.Operators and regulators have been notified about these emission events. Some emission events are temporary and may no longer be active or may have already been repaired. For a more detailed look at the data, visit the full dashboard.
If a leak or emission is deemed a potential risk for explosion based on the location of the leak (near where people work, live or congregate), research teams will immediately notify the relevant local authorities.
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