Methane cloud spotted over South Africa

A cloud of dangerous methane gas has been spotted over northern parts of SA by an international company monitoring satellite readings. Mining and petroleum companies in the Mpumalanga province have denied the possibility that they could be the cause.


Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas that traps approximately 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide. A company based in Europe has released information that dangerously high levels of methane were spotted approximately 125kms east of Johannesburg.  

The company called Kayrros uses information they receive from the European Space Agency to identify levels of methane in the atmosphere across the globe.  In a statement this week they said that this was the highest level of methane they have seen over the African continent this year. 

Anglo American and Sasol have mines and processing operations in this area and both companies deny that they could be the cause of the spike in methane prevalence in the area.

The information from Kayrros highlights a second element of the danger of coal.  It is well known that burning coal in power stations causes pollution - but this information shines a light on the fact that mining coal also produces pollution when it releases methane. Mining companies will often release methane that is trapped underground to lower the risk of explosions.

Because it is well known that coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels international finance companies will no longer fund the production of coal power stations. The massive Kusile and Medupi power stations that Eskom is attempting to finalise the construction of will be the amongst the last coal-powered generation plants to be built in the world.

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