Quantifying CO2 emissions from individual power plants from space

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  • This article has been accepted for publication and undergone full peer review but has not been through the copyediting, typesetting, pagination and proofreading process, which may lead to differences between this version and the Version of Record. Please cite this article as doi: 10.1002/2017GL074702

Abstract

In order to better manage anthropogenic CO2 emissions, improved methods of quantifying emissions are needed at all spatial scales from the national level down to the facility level. Although the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite was not designed for monitoring power plant emissions, we show that in some cases, CO2 observations from OCO-2 can be used to quantify daily CO2 emissions from individual mid- to large-sized coal power plants by fitting the data to plume model simulations. Emission estimates for US power plants are within 1-17% of reported daily emission values, enabling application of the approach to international sites that lack detailed emission information. This affirms that a constellation of future CO2 imaging satellites, optimized for point sources, could monitor emissions from individual power plants to support the implementation of climate policies.

Plain Language Summary

Burning coal for electricity generation accounts for more than 40% of humanity's current global CO2 emissions. To better manage CO2 emissions, improved methods of quantifying emissions are needed at all spatial scales from the national level down to the level of an individual power plant. Although the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite was not designed for monitoring power plant emissions, we show that in select cases, CO2 observations from OCO-2 can be used to quantify daily CO2 emissions from individual mid- to large-sized coal power plants by fitting the data to a simple model. Emission estimates for US power plants are within 1-17% of reported daily emission values enabling application of the approach to international sites that have less or lower quality information available on emissions. Space agencies around the world are currently exploring how they design satellite missions to help address climate change and support Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of CO2 emissions for the Paris Agreement. This work suggests that a constellation of future CO2 imaging satellites, with a design optimized for point sources, could monitor CO2 emissions from various types of individual fossil fuel burning power plants to assist in the implementation of climate policies.

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