MADRID (AP) – Authorities in Madrid on Wednesday defended their treatment of gas from decomposing organic waste after scientists aided by satellite imagery said they found major methane leaks at two landfills serving the Spanish capital .
The leaks were revealed a week after the commitments made by the United States, the European Union and certain countries during the climate negotiations underway at COP26 in Glasgow to limit emissions of methane, which strongly contributes to global warming.
Madrid City Hall said it had not recorded any leaks and that authorities were constantly monitoring so-called “fugitive emissions” from the landfills concerned: “In no case can it be claimed that biogas is being released into the landfill. the atmosphere, ”the city hall said in response to questions from The Associated Press.
In a series of images published on the European Space Agency’s website on Wednesday, plumes of methane can be seen on August 20 and October 13 emanating from two adjacent landfills in the south-eastern suburb of Madrid, about 18 kilometers away. (11 miles) from town. center.
Since methane is odorless and colorless, high-precision thermal imaging is required to detect leaks.
Satellite data indicated a leak at the Valdemingomez landfill, which closed in 2000 but which local authorities say is still being “degassed” – releasing residual amounts of methane and other gases. The other site is near the Las Dehesas landfill, which is currently operational.
The municipality of Madrid said the two sites “have systems for extracting biogas to prevent its release into the atmosphere, and systems for transforming this biogas into electricity”.
Brody Wight, sales director at GHGSat, one of the companies behind the satellite imagery, told the AP that the shows were likely to be sustained and not peak on those two dates. Although the sources are close to the facilities for capturing and transforming the gas into electricity, he said their data suggested the leaks were related to the earthen cells where the waste is dumped.
GHGsat, which provides greenhouse gas emissions monitoring services to governments and businesses, worked with experts from the Dutch Institute for Space Research SRON and used data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission.
The group found that the largest source identified was releasing methane at a rate close to 5,000 kilograms per hour and that the cloud of highly flammable gas was drifting towards nearby neighborhoods. The two landfills emitted 8,800 kilograms of methane per hour in August this year, a record sighting in Europe by GHGSat.
Scientists have said that, if sustained over time, the level of methane emissions seen in the Madrid leaks could power 350,000 homes.
Although the atmosphere contains much higher concentrations of carbon dioxide than methane, the latter is considered in the long run to be a greater contributor to the greenhouse effect that causes climate change. It is believed that over 20% of man-made global warming is caused by methane, which is also produced, among other things, by large cattle ranches.
In Europe, waste is believed to be the source of around a quarter of the continent’s methane emissions, according to the EU’s methane strategy. Block regulations require landfill and landfill operators to capture the gas and use it for power generation or burn it.
The government in Madrid did not respond directly to questions sent about the specific leaks identified by the satellite images.
In a written statement, she indicated that she had a contract to control “fugitive emissions” in factories that handle methane: “These checks are carried out periodically and make it possible to detect any emissions and correct them immediately”, he said. -He specifies.
Hatton contributed from Lisbon, Portugal.
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