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Latest Tools to Help Reporters Investigate Methane Emissions

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Important new sources have emerged that can help investigative journalists hold to account those responsible for emitting methane gas, a major cause of global warming.

The new material, based on satellite images, pinpoints the location, date, and size of the methane plumes.

Tracking specific methane emissions is a starting point for reporting on methane emissions. Where are the big methane “plumes?” Who is responsible? What’s being done to stop the emissions?

Human sources account for about 60% of total methane emissions, which come mainly from three sectors: fossil fuels, agriculture, and waste. Although methane dissipates far faster than carbon dioxide, methane is about 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide within a 20-year time frame.

GIJN described many resources for journalists in its Guide to Investigating Methane (short version and long version). The new resources covered below have been added to these guides. They also include other reporting tips, such as tracking emissions from ground level.

The new resources are:

  • Carbon Mapper: The data portal from this US nonprofit has worldwide coverage and is periodically updated.
  • IMEO Methane Data: An extensive collection, but data is released 45 – 75 days after the event.
  • Kayrros Methane Map: Data provided by the French company Kayrros shows large methane emissions dating back to 2019, also with a time lag.
  • MethaneSAT will provide images soon from a satellite that was successfully deployed into Earth orbit on March 4, 2024, but nothing has been posted as of publication.
  • Climate Trace: Has a large inventory on emissions from almost 400,000 methane sources in 10 sectors.
  • The Global Methane Emitters Tracker: Provides methane emissions data from fossil fuel sources.
  • The Waste Methane Assessment Platform: WasteMAP estimates the methane emissions from landfills worldwide.

All of these resources can prove useful, but additional research is required. Notably, while the geographic coordinates are provided, the identities of the emitters are not.

Other sources for satellite images exist.

For very current satellite images, a good source is EMIT, from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The EMIT map “shows high-confidence research grade methane plumes from point source emitters — updated as they are identified.” Clicking on the red circles will show the time and concentration of the emissions.

Image: Screenshot, EMIT/NASA

Also, several major new reports are key sources for methane watchers.

“Methane emissions from the energy sector remained near a record high in 2023 — but substantial policies and regulations announced in recent months, as well as fresh pledges stemming from the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, have the potential to put them into decline soon,” according to a March 2024 update of the Global Methane Tracker by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2023 called for commitments by the fossil fuel industry, and oil and gas companies in particular, to cut methane emissions from operations by 75%. Another IEA report pointed out the health consequences of methane emissions. “Immediate, targeted methane abatement in the fossil fuel sector can prevent nearly one million premature deaths due to ozone exposure,” the report said.

Description of the New Sources 

Carbon Mapper

Carbon Mapper is a US nonprofit entity whose data portal was launched in November of 2023. Zoom in on the world map for the periodically updated information. Looking ahead, an advanced imaging spectrometer will be on a satellite to be launched in 2024, which will add more precision to the measurements. Media contact:

CarbonMapper’s world map, showing clusters of methane sources. Image: Screenshot, CarbonMapper

Methane Alert and Response System (MARS)

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has posted a map and data showing methane emissions, mainly from sites related to oil and gas production, but also some from coal mines and landfills. The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) was announced in 2022 and was in a “trial phase” during 2023. MARS is run by the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) at UNEP.

The first batch of data was put up in November 2023, with some of the detected emissions going back into 2021. All are based on a variety of satellite sources. Officials say new data will be added twice a month.

The data shows the country in which the emission occurred and gives the geographic coordinates of the source. Also provided in 17 columns is the rate of the emission in tons per hour. The database online is not sortable online, but can be downloaded in two formats, GeoJSON and CSV.

However, public disclosure about the emissions occurs 45 – 75 days after detection because the UNEP effort combines transparency with engagement with emitters.

The strategy is to work “in a constructive and productive way” with governments and those responsible for the emissions. Yet to be released are promised summaries of UNEP’s engagement efforts. In a December 2023  report, UNEP said it had notified governments and companies about 127 large methane emissions detected in the oil and gas sector during 2023. The data table on emissions indicates whether governments were contacted. Entries in the “notified” column show either “True” or “False.” Media contact:

Kayrros Methane Map

The Kayrros Methane Map from the French company Kayrros shows large methane emissions dating back to 2019, with regular updates.

Clicking one of the spots on the map (call up the “super-emitter view”) will provide descriptive information about the emission, including the date, the exact coordinates (“precise up to several kilometers”), the flow rate, wind information, and an uncertainty factor.

Image: Screenshot, Kayrros

Kayrros also indicates the likely type of source, using three categories: oil and gas, coal, and other human activity. The map can be filtered by these three categories, by date (see bar along the bottom), and by low or high-resolution source.

Tip: To download data from a particular area, go to the “download data” box in the lower right corner of the map. Pick the option that says “Download data for specific regions.” Drag the square with corner dots into the map and create the circumference you want. Then the data to download will be only from that area.

The data is about three months out of date because Kayrros sells the latest data to customers by subscription, including IMEO. Kayrros will work with reporters and answer questions. Media contact:


MethaneSAT is a project sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and others, including Google. A satellite successfully launched on March 4, 2024, and is now orbiting the Earth 15 times a day at an altitude of over 350 miles. The satellite will measure methane levels with “unprecedented precision,” according to EDF, and provide near real-time data.

However, data from this project will not be accessible right away. “The satellite and data platform are expected to be fully operational and available to the public by January 2025,” according to EDF spokesperson Jon Coifman. Media Contact: Jon Coifman (212) 616-1325 (office) (917) 575-1885 (mobile); email.

Climate Trace

Climate Trace, a US nongovernmental organization, has a large inventory on the sources of greenhouse gas emissions around the world, including methane, with 395,075 sources identified.

On the map, you can filter for methane, the source sector (10 options plus various subcategories), and the time frame. Clicking on colored map dots brings up the name of the facility, specific annual methane emission estimates, and sometimes the geographic coordinates. The latest data is from 2022, but it goes back as far as 2015 in some cases. Country total emissions are also available. The categories include agriculture and Climate Trace says it has good satellite data on rice field locations, a component in making emission estimates at the country level. The data is downloadable. It is based on estimates from a variety of sources (methodology). Media contacts: Nikki Arnone or Fae Jencks

Global Methane Emitters Tracker

The Global Methane Emitters Tracker (GMET), which came out in November of 2023, also provides a map and downloadable data, but does not primarily rely on satellite data. It is run by a US-based NGO, Global Energy Monitor. There are methane emissions estimates for coal mines, oil and gas reserves, and natural gas transmission pipelines. For a source description, see the project methodology. In future iterations, GMET will expand its remotely-sensed plume attribution coverage.

The data is downloadable and viewable with interactive mapping and aggregate summary tables. Tables provide emissions data by country. Integrated factsheets on the facilities come from Media inquiries: David Hoffman

Global Energy Monitor’s Global Methane Emissions Tracker (GMET) pinpoints emissions by project type in addition to tracking methane plumes. Image: Screenshot, Global Methane Tracker

WasteMAP Offers New Tool

Methane from the waste sector contributes 18% of the world’s methane emissions from human activity, the third-largest source behind fossil fuels and agriculture. Municipal solid waste is responsible for 11% of the total and wastewater is the other 7%.


WasteMAP identifies 4,056 specific landfills on a map and how much methane they are emitting. These estimates are based on public data from a variety of sources, modeling, and sometimes satellite images. WasteMAP researchers also calculated total country and city emissions. Read the methodology section for more.

To facilitate the exploration of what solutions would help, WasteMAP includes a “Decision Support Tool.” Shifting the assumptions shows the potential effects of implementing various mitigation strategies, such as recycling and composting.

WasteMAP was created by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a US NGO, and Clean Air Task.

Force, with funding from the Global Methane Hub, a philanthropy based in Chile (which got US$5 million from Google for the project). Media contact:

Additional Note: Various national data sites about landfill methane emissions are emerging. For coverage of landfills in India, see Chasing Methane from IndiaSpend, which did a report in November of 2023.  In the US, ReFED monitors the levels of food waste. One site focuses on California, done by Don’t Waste Our Future.

Coal Mine Methane Data Tracker

Coal Mine Methane Data Tracker was created by Ember, an independent energy think tank. Seeking to measure how accurately countries are reporting on coal mine methane emissions, the dataset is used to create “confidence scores.” Contact:

Methane Accountability: Monitoring Pledges

Investigating particular emissions is only one way of reporting deeply on methane. Because many companies and countries have pledged to cut their emissions (or haven’t), there are potential stories on their actions. Are they following through?

Prominent places to start in the promises arena include these sites.

Global Methane Pledge: 156 countries have pledged to contribute to a collective effort to reduce overall global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. There are few signs of progress so far, according to a Kayrros analysis in late 2023. Member countries are not obligated to set specific targets for themselves. For individual government promises, reporters will need to do national reporting. However, many countries have made announcements. See a critical report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and in The Washington Post.

Measurement issues are critical. Under-reporting has been highlighted by the IEA, and written about in The Conversation and Nature. A scientific study reported that oil and gas sector emissions were 30% higher than the global total from UNFCCC reports, mainly due to under-reporting by the four largest emitters including the US, Russia, Venezuela, and Turkmenistan. Under-reporting in India was described by IndiaSpend. Canada’s National Observer wrote, Canada’s methane leaks — underreported and overwhelming. Scholars published by the Center on Global Energy Policy dissected Russia’s emissions. State-owned oil companies are particularly lagging on methane reporting, wrote two staffers from the Environmental Defense Fund. “Indonesia’s underreporting of coal mine methane emissions could risk undermining the country’s efforts to meet its Global Methane Pledge commitments,” according to an investigation by Ember.

For more on understanding country commitments and available sources of information, see GIJN’s guide to Holding Governments Accountable for Climate Change Pledges.

Fossil Fuel Companies: Some 50 oil and gas companies pledged to cut methane emissions to nearly zero by 2030 at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai (COP28). Several environmental nonprofits and intergovernmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund, signed on to track the effort. See the PBS report and an S&P Global article that includes a list of participants. Down To Earth, an NGO, analyzed the records of 10 oil and gas companies. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), an industry group, announced at COP28 that it has stepped up activities on methane detection and flaring, but it does not release site-specific information. Some reporters are holding companies accountable. Dialogo China examined Shell’s record and the same reporters wrote in The Cable about Shell’s claims about methane in Nigeria.

Dairy Methane Action Alliance: Six global food companies launched the Dairy Methane Action Alliance (DMAA) during COP28, an effort aided by the Environmental Defense Fund. “By joining this groundbreaking initiative, these companies are the first to commit to annually account and publicly disclose methane emissions within their dairy supply chains, and they are each pledging to create and implement a comprehensive methane action plan,” the EDF said in a statement. Members include the Bel Group, Danone, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Lactalis USA (a US affiliate of Lactalis Group), and Nestlé.

Financing Is a Growing Issue

There’s plenty happening on methane abatement and how it can be financed.

An IEA report says cutting methane emissions by 75% by 2030 would require US$75 billion of investment, but that over half of it could be recouped by selling captured gas. Also see Landscape of Methane Abatement Finance 2023 by the Climate Policy Initiative and report by the bank JP Morgan, The Methane Emissions Opportunity.

The environmental group Clean Air Task Force (CATF) found in a 2023 report that global investment in methane emission reduction is below what the world needs to keep temperature increases below two degrees Celsius (four degrees Fahrenheit).

The Global Flaring and Methane Reduction Partnership (GFMR) at the World Bank is intended to promise to provide US$255 million in new grant funding to catalyze oil and gas methane and flaring reduction in developing countries. Six major oil companies said they would contribute, but not Chevron Corp, or Exxon Mobil Corp., Bloomberg reported.

New Regulations to Watch

New regulations on methane, particularly in the US, the EU, and Canada may produce new data, as well as continuing debates about the right approach.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a new final rule that sets performance standards and emissions guidelines for oil and natural gas facilities. Certified third parties will be able to use remote sensing technologies and inform authorities of “super-emitter events.” (See descriptions by Heatmap and The New York Times.) Fines will be imposed, too. (See The New York Times.) Also, the US is providing loans to fund methane monitoring in oil-producing regions.

The potential new data in the US may prove eye-opening. A report by a research firm Enverus predicts that reported methane emission figures will double. Ceres and Clean Air Task Force released the third annual report, Benchmarking Methane and other GHG Emissions of Oil and Natural Gas Production in the United States, showing “dramatic variation” of methane emissions among US oil and gas producers. A US law firm cautioned that third-party detection could lead to legal and reputational problems. Oil Change International praised the US rule, but also criticized parts of it. A report by Datu Research says methane measurement companies are prepared to do the monitoring.

Another ongoing policy debate in the US concerns the construction of a terminal for the export of liquified natural gas (LNG). See this summary from Climate Change Now, which cites a forthcoming scientific paper analyzing the carbon footprint of LNG.

The EU rule will require the gas, oil, and coal industries to measure, monitor, report, and verify their methane emissions. See summaries in the Guardian and Energy Monitor. Politico said the rules will require companies importing oil and gas “to demonstrate that their supply chain has emissions monitoring standards equivalent to the EU’s from 2027.”

China in November published its plan on methane, but included no firm targets for reducing those emissions, Reuters reported.

In Canada, researchers produced a methane emission census.

Descriptions Matter

How methane emissions are described can be controversial. One place that this has flared up concerns the competing ways that are used to describe emissions from agricultural sources. The debate centers on a farmer-favored scientific metric known as GWP* (pronounced “G-W-P star”).

A cautionary article in The Conversation by three British scientists is headlined: Meat and Dairy Industry’s Attempt to Change How We Measure Methane Emissions Would Let Polluters off the Hook. A similar article by another scientist, writing in the same publication, was headlined, The Meat and Dairy Industry is Not ‘Climate Neutral’, Despite Some Eye-Catching Claims. For more information, see an article in Fast Company and a good explanation by a New Zealand scientist here.

Toby McIntosh, GIJN Resource Center Senior AdvisorToby McIntosh is a senior advisor for GIJN’s Resource Center, which provides online resources to journalists worldwide. He was the editor of, (2010-2017) a nonprofit website based in Washington, D.C. that covers international transparency laws. He was with Bloomberg BNA for 39 years and has filed numerous US Freedom of Information requests and has written about FOI policies worldwide. He is a steering committee member of FOIANet, a network of FOI advocates.

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