AI: USSR fall raised methane, though oil, gas dropped in 90s.


Key Points:

  • Research shows that methane emissions in Turkmenistan increased after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
  • The increase in methane emissions was attributed to failing infrastructure, broken components, and reduced oversight of oil and gas wells.

This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used AI analysis of satellite images to track methane plumes in Turkmenistan from 1986 to 2011. The research showed that methane emissions actually increased in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, despite a decrease in gas production. The authors speculated that this increase could be due to reasons such as failing infrastructure, broken components, less oversight of oil and gas wells, and fewer export routes, leading to more deliberate or unintentional off-gassing.

The study highlighted the importance of understanding the complex factors influencing methane emissions and the need for more efficient tools, such as AI, to analyze satellite data for better atmospheric monitoring. The findings challenge previous assumptions about the impact of the USSR collapse on methane emissions and raise questions about the drivers of atmospheric methane levels in the 1990s.