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Earth Day 2021: Meeting GHGsat and celebrating the role satellites play in monitoring our environment

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As the climate crisis becomes ever more serious, each Earth Day that comes along is increasingly more significant. Established in 1970 in the US, the event brings together millions of people from around the world in support of the environment, highlighting the urgent action we need to take to save our planet. Across the globe many important environmental events have occurred on Earth Day since its inception, including the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016. This year the focus of the event is Restore our Earth. Here on the south coast we recognise that Satellite applications and space technology have an important role to play in mitigating climate change and restoring our planet and there are a myriad of companies across the globe who are working flat out to create change. 

On Earth day this year we have teamed up with South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications to highlight businesses across our local regions that are already working to combat climate change. We interviewed Adina Gillespie from GHGsat who talking of the climate crisis and GHGsat’s satellite technology advocated for hope and offered some solutions too. 

GHGsat design, develop and utilize emission sensing and data technology for industries seeking to decarbonize their activities and are specialists in remote sensing of greenhouse gases produced by industrial facilities around the world.  They utilise data from a huge variety of sources including their own satellite imagery. Adina Gillespie is GHGsat’s Business Director for Europe and has over 15 years experience in delivering programmes and strategic advice in the application of smallsat Earth Observation technology across the board for governments to commercial users. 

Who are you? What do you do?

I am the Director for European Business Development at GHGsat, which is growing the business within Europe as we are establishing a European Centre based in the UK. My main role is in helping big organisations and governments understand why this technology is relevant to them. I also have a number of roles within the UK space sector including serving on the Space Growth Partnership, the Satellite Applications Catapult Advisory Group and more.

GHGSat itself delivers advanced analytics using data from many different sources including our own high resolution satellites. The exciting part is that our satellites are specifically designed to collect high resolution imagery that lets us attribute greenhouse gas emissions to industrial facilities. This has not been possible before using other satellites since it is the high resolution capability that enables us to pinpoint where those emissions are coming from. This information is used by operators to shut down greenhouse gas leaks when they happen. So that’s what we do as a business which is exciting for the impact we have working in collaboration with others to respond to the emissions challenge. We bring in data from lots of different sources, and have our satellites as the special sauce that takes it to a new level.

At the moment we are delivering commercial services for policy-makers and industrial operators, including with oil and gas businesses and other sectors. We also have various R&D projects on the go, to push the boundaries and possibilities of the technology.   

What is your company’s relationship to support for the environment / climate change?

It’s really simple, we deliver commercial climate services to help inform operational and policy decisions for operators, regulators and others. 

What are the challenges of the sector? 

I am going to look at this in 2 different ways, firstly the challenge for our customers is the lack of regular, accurate emissions data. To meet their climate commitments, information is required at multiple scales from the facility-level  to national and regional scales. Second, the challenge for us as a company is helping decision makers understand the real value of these assets, by this I mean recognising both the environmental and economic value. 

In your opinion how can satellites help to support environmental protection? Now and in the future? 

I love this question, simply because there are so many different ways to answer this question. Our satellites provide essential data in the climate challenge, specifically the emissions challenge while other technologies answer other parts of the climate challenge. Satellites can be used for habitat mapping, large scale forest mapping, disaster management, and more – there are just so many different environmental applications for this technology to contribute to the evidence base we need right now. 

What exciting developments are you looking forward to- and what changes do you expect to see over the next 5 years?

And looking forward for us as a business, in 5 years time we will have the full complement of satellites, we have 3 satellites and we are building a constellation of 10 satellites. In 5 years we will be ingesting data from these and the new public satellites ready to launch. Today we monitor methane, but we are expanding to observe other greenhouse gases.

As a global community we will be able to make even smarter and better informed decisions in 5 years time. This is essential for solving the climate challenge, and it will take all of us to do it. We at GHGsat have a part to play alongside many others.

That is what I expect and hope to see in the next 5 years. 

Chloe McClellan
Media and Communications Assistant
Chloe McClellan is an experienced communicator and social media specialist.