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Satellite-based observations showed a decrease up to 90% in sulphur dioxide emissions from copper smelters in Namibia and Serbia, thanks to Finnish cleantech solutions.
A recent study shows that reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions and the efficacy of cleantech solutions can be monitored using satellite-based observations.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is a polluting gas, which it is toxic when present in high concentrations and affects negatively air quality and human health. Sulphur dioxide is produced from both man-made and natural sources. Enhancements in SO2 concentrations can be found close to metal smelters, power plants, oil refineries as well as volcanoes.
Satellite-based measurements showed a decrease in SO2 concentrations from 2014 to 2016 over the copper smelters in Tsumeb (Namibia) and Bor (Serbia) (Fig. 1).
Satellite-based annual SO2 emission estimations show up to 90% reduction starting 2015 (even with a 15% increase in copper production), when sulphuric acid plants, developed by Finnish cleantech company Outotec, were implemented at the smelters. The sulphuric acid plant is designed to transform gaseous sulphur dioxide into sulphuric acid. Satellite-based SO2 emissions and their year-to-year variability are in agreement within the uncertainties with the smelters' facility-level emission inventories (Fig. 2).
"We showed that satellite-based observations can be used to monitor air polluting emissions in support of the Finnish cleantech sector and to foster sustainable development and informed decision-making, in general," says Iolanda Ialongo, senior researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Atmospheric SO2 observations and emission estimations from point sources derived from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on-board NASA's EOS-Aura satellite have been used in the study led by researchers at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. OMI instrument measures the solar light backscattered by the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The SO2 amount in the lower layers of the atmosphere is derived indirectly from these solar light measurements at different wavelengths.
The research work was carried on in collaboration with an international team including Environment and Climate Change Canada, NASA and Outotec. The results were achieved within the ILMApilot project funded by the Academy of Finland Key funding programme, which aims at increasing the societal impact of satellite-based atmospheric observations in air pollution monitoring applications.
Senior scientist Iolanda Ialongo, Finnish Meteorological Insitute, tel. +358 440 112 140, Iolanda.Ialongo@fmi.fi, @iolandaialongo
Ialongo, I., Fioletov, V., McLinden, C., Jåfs, M., Krotkov, N., Li, C., and Tamminen, J.: Application of satellite-based sulfur dioxide observations to support the cleantech sector: Detecting emission reduction from copper smelters, Environmental Technology & Innovation, 12, 172-179, ISSN 2352-1864, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eti.2018.08.006, 2018.
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