EconomyFinancialEuropean scientists discover massive methane leak at Pemex field

European scientists discover massive methane leak at Pemex field

The Mexican state-owned company Pemex released thousands of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in December, research published Thursday by the European Space Agency (ESA) showed.

Invisible and odourless, but much more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, methane is one of the main causes of global warming.

Two satellites recorded images of methane plumes during an “ultra-emission” event between December 8 and 27, according to .

Researchers led by Itziar Irakulis, from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, calculated that some 4,000 tons of methane were released during that period.

In those days Pemex emitted an amount of methane equivalent to 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide or 3% of the country’s annual CO2 emissions.

Investigators concluded that the leak into the Gulf of Mexico was likely due to “abnormal process conditions at the site,” such as malfunctions or equipment problems.

Neither Pemex nor the energy ministry responded to requests for comment from Reuters.

“These are the first detections made from satellites,” Irakulis told Reuters. “Without the monitoring approach outlined in the document, similar events would remain invisible and unexplained.”

The emissions occurred near the Mexican state of Campeche, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field, which produces about 20% of the country’s total oil production.

Methane is much more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but it only lasts in the atmosphere for about a decade.

Other satellites detected that a nearly constant flare suddenly disappeared on December 8, only flaring up sporadically during the “ultra-emission” event.

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