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Methane Plume Seen by Satellite Over Alabama Mystifies Experts

  • Spew was among largest detected by satellite in U.S. this year
  • Region is home to old coal mines and natural gas wells
Methane plume seen on Kayrros data on Oct. 22.
Methane plume seen on Kayrros data on Oct. 22.Source: Kayrros SAS

A large methane plume was spotted over northwestern Alabama near natural gas and coal sites three weeks ago -- though regulators have been unable to identify what spewed out the harmful greenhouse gas.

The Oct. 22 release was detected by satellite and pinpointed to an area in Marion County near natural gas wells in the Black Warrior Basin, a pair of gas pipelines and coal mines, some dating back to the late 1800s. An emissions rate of about 58 tons of methane per hour would have been required to generate the plume, according to an estimate from Kayrros SAS, which analyzed European Space Agency data.