August 13, 2021

Stratospheric platform will allow for real-time emissions monitoring

Hannah Grover

A pumpjack is seen in Aztec, a part of New Mexico where a methane hotspot has been discovered.

New Mexico will soon be able to pinpoint sources of emissions using high altitude platform stations, or airships, that will be located in the stratosphere approximately 65,000 feet above New Mexico.

The company Sceye—pronounced sky—signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Mexico Environment Department, the New Mexico Economic Development Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for this monitoring effort. Sceye operates out of Roswell and Moriarty.

A five-year study using the airships to provide emissions data is expected to begin next year.

“Looking forward, we’re going to have an eye in the sky,” said NMED Secretary James Kenney during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

This initiative will facilitate energy and air-related research in New Mexico as well as neighboring states and Mexico.

Kenney said an estimated 13 percent of ozone pollution in Eddy and Lea counties comes from emissions in Texas and the partnership will allow the state to better attribute the sources of the emissions and design regional programs to address them.

“The air quality is a concern we share, but it’s also one of the main reasons why we started this company,” said Sceye founder and CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen.

He said Sceye’s mission is to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

The extraction of oil and natural gas in the Permian and San Juan basins means that New Mexico has higher levels of methane emissions than most other states, Frandsen said.

“Collecting data with precision and in real time is the key to meeting New Mexico’s emission reduction targets,” he said.

In addition, New Mexico Economic Development Department Director Alicia Keyes said the partnership supports high-paying jobs at a New Mexico based company.

“This MOU is going to boost research and development, it’s going to invest in science and better data, and it’s also just a huge economic win for New Mexico,” she said.

Sceye’s airships can also provide internet access and the state entered into another agreement earlier this year with the company to study using the airships to expand access to broadband.