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  • Writer's pictureCameron McNeill

Satellite Carbon Monitoring and Effective Resource Management: Their Role in Canadian Energy

Written by: Cameron McNeill

Edited by: Kyra Odell

The practice of satellite carbon monitoring began in 1996 with Japan’s launch of the ADEOS I satellite which focused on monitoring ozone depletion along with general changes in Earth's atmosphere. While the satellite lasted less than a year due to structural damage to its solar array, it would pave the way for an industry focusing on innovative emission solutions. Today’s satellites still rely on the technological principles which served the ADEOS I, using infrared sensors to gather light resistance data that allows for the identification and quantification of atmospheric and greenhouse gasses. Advancements in technology mean that these satellites now have the capacity not just for broad observations, but also for specific emissions quantification and observation.

Such developments are the result of significant investments from not only governmental organizations such as NASDA (National Space Development Agency of Japan), which was responsible for the launch of the ADEOS I, but also from private organizations who are using this technology to create value for companies within the oil and gas industry. By measuring the concentration of emissions in and around the area of a client's facility - whether that be a pipeline or natural gas refinery - they can pinpoint areas where emissions mitigation strategies are being compromised and discover gas leaks or confirm emissions reports, both of which provide the company value in the way of asset protection. Being able to map out areas where product is being ineffectively contained means facility managers can dispatch repair teams and engineers to reinforce zones where leaks are occurring, thereby mitigating net carbon emissions along with loss of product.

Companies such as GHGSat, a Montreal-based carbon monitoring company with nine active satellites, have been key players in the industry at large, leading the way for Canadian innovation. Their carbon monitoring data was used just this year to locate a methane leak in a UK pipeline, and their emissions data has been acquired as part of an ongoing evaluation to determine its utility for advancing NASA’s Earth science goals. The dominant presence of a Canadian company within the industry is important not only as an example for other Canadian innovators, but because of its applications to our energy industry. The ability to refine the extraction process of natural gas and fossil fuels more broadly is vital in a country reliant on these resources for over 90% of primary energy production. Considering the scale of their use in Canada specifically, investment in carbon monitoring technologies and the companies responsible for its development is crucial. This domain of energy-facing emission technology is playing a pivotal role in equipping our private sector with the tools necessary for effective resource management and, by extension, our goals of a carbon neutral Canada.



Alahdad, R., Hai, J., Holburn, G., & Rivard, B. (2020). Energy in Canada: A Statistical Overview. Western University: Ivey Business School Energy Policy and Management Centre.

Statistics Canada. (2022). Energy Supply and Demand, 2021. The Government of Canada.

GHGSat. (2022, October 5). NASA Awards GHGSat Commercial Small Satellite Data Acquisition Agreement.


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