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Yotam Ariel is founder and CEO of Bluefield Technologies, an ESG data provider. The company is based in New York but Ariel is frequently in Hong Kong to build the Asia business.
What problem are you addressing?
Currently, all the ESG decisions investors are trying to make are based on looking at data. But in many cases, the data doesn’t exist, or it’s wrong. An investor might just calculate the number of valves in a company’s operations that emit methane, but don’t factor in leaks.
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- WeBank combines A.I. and satellites for ESG intel
- Elsa Pau, BlueOnion
- Angela Kwan, Catalyser
New technology such as satellite imagery can see the emissions and attribute those to a company. With this kind of data, we don’t have to fight climate change blindfolded.
What does Bluefield do?
Bluefield provides independent emissions data from 23 satellites. Our algorithms scan worldwide outputs of methane and other greenhouse gasses, factoring in things like wind and other atmospheric phenomena. Our subscribers can receive an index or information on a specific industry and alerts.
This business is new. It’s only evolved in the past two or three years, since the cost to launch a satellite has fallen by 10 times and we have advanced sensors and imaging capabilities. Optical components on satellites are muc smaller with far better resolution. Bluefield’s a small team but we can process data from the entire planet on a daily basis, in a matter of seconds. When we receive data, we can attribute it to specific companies. We can connect emissions data with geolocation tagging.
This is exciting. We can help investors identify companies that are showing progress on climate and reduce portfolio risk. This will create momentum for better ways to run companies.
What does this look like in practice?
We were the first to detect a large methane release in Florida. This leak amounted to 300 tons, or 1 percent of daily U.S. natural-gas emissions. Investors and the public weren’t aware of this, but our satellites picked it up and our algos identified the source. We took awareness of the event from maybe five people to fifty million, including many in the federal government, which launched an investigation.
We’re now finding thousands of these breaches all over the world. The asset might be in a remote place like Venezuela or Turkmenistan, but it’s often operated by a multinational corporation through local joint ventures. That’s on top of national emitters in developed markets like the U.S. and in Asia.
What else do we need to know?
Certain types of data are like putting a webcam inside a company. Some companies embrace transparency, and want to show the efforts they are taking to improve their environmental performance. Others do not. But digital technology is coming. It is not slow. We are talking about live feeds and processing that takes seconds. Investors can get an alert within a day about a mining operation invading a nature reserve or a massive methane release.
In Asia, data is hard to get. It’s difficult anywhere to pin emissions on a specific company. The numbers investors see are self-reported. But satellites see everything. If we see a methane release, and do a little digging, we can find out which facility it comes from.
We’re also developing our own satellite-based sensors. We plan to launch these within two years, and to be operating eight satellites within three years. This will give us insights similar to Google Maps, only we’re mapping critical carbon emitters.
Satellites have drawbacks, too. They are limited by cloud cover, and they aren’t good at sensing small leaks or identifying the source when you have a lot of factories crowded together. We’re still developing use cases, and building confidence in our data. But we can now have an independent, accurate view.