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Scientists make alarming find using advanced satellite technology: 'Not all of it came from one location'

The leak was unable to be traced back to a single entity.

The leak was unable to be traced back to a single entity.

Photo Credit: iStock

Satellite technology reportedly uncovered a disturbing amount of methane from a natural gas pipeline in Durango, Mexico, raising further concerns about the country's processes for tracking pollution related to its infrastructure. 

What happened?

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December found that "extreme" amounts of methane gas were released in 2019 by the El Encino-La Laguna pipeline, which helps carry natural gas from the United States to Mexico, as reported by Reuters. 

"Our analysis shows that there were emissions from several different parts of the pipeline between April and May that year. Not all of it came from one location," Marc Watine, a scientist at Harvard University, told the news outlet. 

One day alone reportedly saw 260 to 550 tons of methane released per hour for three hours, and the leak was unable to be traced back to a single entity. 

Reuters notes that state-owned utility company CFE, which owns the pipeline, did not respond to a request for a comment on the matter. Meanwhile, Fermaca Pipeline El Encino, which operates the pipeline, doesn't have publicly available contact information. 

Two other methane leaks were also discovered at state energy company Pemex in September 2022 by another group. 

Why is this concerning?

Methane is a heat-trapping gas that is at least 28 times stronger than carbon dioxide. 

CO2 is far more abundant, but methane is responsible for approximately 30% of the dangerous rise of global temperatures, according to the International Energy Agency (IAE) — even though it accounts for only 16% of known planet-warming pollution, per the Environmental Protection Agency. 

While there are nearly 200 countries in the world, Mexico and the United States are among the top 12 producers of methane, per the IAE, making it even more vital for policies to be in place to accurately monitor this type of pollution and hold companies and governments to account. 

What is being done about methane?

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference created a Global Methane Pledge aimed at reducing methane pollution by at least 30% by 2030 compared to 2020 levels, as detailed by the IAE, and 111 countries have signed on. 

A coalition of three nonprofits called the Mexican Methane Emissions Observatory also launched its own investigation into the regulatory practices of Mexican oil and gas companies, raising awareness about the issue in efforts to create change, as another Reuters article reports

"Controlling the emissions of methane is what Mexico can and should do to comply with its international commitments," Adrián Fernández, the founder of coalition member Mexico Climate Initiative, told Reuters. 

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