Ethylene industrial emitters seen from space

Over the past decade, significant progress has been made in improving the monitoring of the Earth’s atmosphere and our understanding of the impact that human activities have on air pollution. IASI/Metop is one of these satellite instruments capable of mapping the chemical composition of the atmosphere globally and in near-real time. In a recent study, Franco et al. (2022) have also shown that it is possible to map ethylene (C2H4), a reactive gas closely linked to human activities. Thanks to these new measurements and an innovative technique for analyzing data at high spatial resolution, the 300 most significant point sources emitting ethylene globally were revealed. Franco et al. (2022) found that these sources are often associated with the presence of heavy industries, particularly petrochemical sites. Ethylene, which is derived from hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and serves as a raw material for the production of plastics, polymers, and many other goods and materials, is indeed the organic compound most abundantly produced by the chemical industry. Other identified point sources of ethylene include industries related to coal mining, such as coking plants, steelworks, and power plants. Finally, certain megacities have been identified as major emitters of ethylene due to their high concentration of polluting activities (automobile traffic, domestic heating, etc.). These results can ultimately improve the inventories of pollutant gas emissions resulting from human activities.

Central panel: Zoom-in of the C2H4 hyperfine resolution distribution from the 13-year IASI average superimposed on satellite visible imagery, over Iran and the Persian Gulf. Hotspots of ethylene are indicated with black squares. Side panels: Examples of close-up views on point-source emitters. Visible imagery from Google Earth, CNES/Airbus, DigitalGlobe, and Landsat/Copernicus. Map data ©2022 Google.

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