Shortwave IR Adaption of the Mid-Infrared Radiance Method of Fire Radiative Power (FRP) Retrieval for Assessing Industrial Gas Flaring Output
Department of Geography, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK
NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2018, 10(2), 305; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs10020305
Received: 12 January 2018 / Revised: 7 February 2018 / Accepted: 10 February 2018 / Published: 16 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Atmosphere Remote Sensing)
The radiative power (MW) output of a gas flare is a useful metric from which the rate of methane combustion and carbon dioxide emission can be inferred for inventorying purposes and regular global surveys based on such assessments are now being used to keep track of global gas flare reduction efforts. Several multispectral remote sensing techniques to estimate gas flare radiative power output have been developed for use in such surveys and single band approaches similar to those long used for the estimation of landscape fire radiative power output (FRP) can also be applied. The MIR-Radiance method, now used for FRP retrieval within the MODIS active fire products, is one such single band approach—but its applicability to gas flare targets (which are significantly hotter than vegetation fires) has not yet been assessed. Here we show that the MIR-Radiance approach is in fact not immediately suitable for retrieval of gas flare FRP due to their higher combustion temperatures but that switching to use data from a SWIR (rather than MWIR) spectral channel once again enables the method to deliver unbiased FRP retrievals. Over an assumed flaring temperature range of 1600–2200 K we find a maximum FRP error of ±13.6% when using SWIR observations at 1.6 µm and ±6.3% when using observations made at 2.2 µm. Comparing these retrievals to those made by the multispectral VIIRS ‘NightFire’ algorithm (based on Planck Function fits to the multispectral signals) we find excellent agreement (bias = 0.5 MW, scatter = 1.6 MW). An important implication of the availability of this new SWIR radiance method for gas flare analysis is the potential to apply it to long time-series from older and/or more spectrally limited instruments, unsuited to the use of multispectral algorithms. This includes the ATSR series of sensors operating between 1991–2012 on the ERS-1, ERS-2 and ENVISAT satellites and such long-term data can be used with the SWIR-Radiance method to identify key trends in global gas flaring that have occurred over the last few decades.