Gas flaring is a disposal process widely used in the oil extraction and processing industry. It consists in the burning of unwanted gas at the tip of a stack and due to its thermal characteristic and the thermal emission it is possible to observe and to quantify it from space. Spaceborne observations allows us to collect information across regions and hence to provide a base for estimation of emissions on global scale. We have successfully adapted the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Nightfire algorithm for the detection and characterisation of persistent hot spots, including gas flares, to the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) observations on-board the Sentinel-3 satellites. A hot event at temperatures typical of a gas flare will produce a local maximum in the night-time readings of the shortwave and mid-infrared (SWIR and MIR) channels of SLSTR. The SWIR band centered at 1.61
m is closest to the expected spectral radiance maximum and serves as the primary detection band. The hot source is characterised in terms of temperature and area by fitting the sum of two Planck curves, one for the hot source and another for the background, to the radiances from all the available SWIR, MIR and thermal infra-red channels of SLSTR. The flaring radiative power is calculated from the gas flare temperature and area. Our algorithm differs from the original VIIRS Nightfire algorithm in three key aspects: (1) It uses a granule-based contextual thresholding to detect hot pixels, being independent of the number of hot sources present and their intensity. (2) It analyses entire clusters of hot source detections instead of individual pixels. This is arguably a more comprehensive use of the available information. (3) The co-registration errors between hot source clusters in the different spectral bands are calculated and corrected. This also contributes to the SLSTR instrument validation. Cross-comparisons of the new gas flare characterisation with temporally close observations by the higher resolution German FireBIRD TET-1 small satellite and with the Nightfire product based on VIIRS on-board the Suomi-NPP satellite show general agreement for an individual flaring site in Siberia and for several flaring regions around the world. Small systematic differences to VIIRS Nightfire are nevertheless apparent. Based on the hot spot characterisation, gas flares can be identified and flared gas volumes and pollutant emissions can be calculated with previously published methods.
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