Beyond Visible: Texan environmental activist uses FLIR camera to capture industrial emissions

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

It was an eerie scene that played out like a scene from the opening credits of the old science-fiction television series, The Outer Limits. In sharply contrasted black and white, a column of what looked like smoke billowed out from the exhaust stack of an energy facility north of Edinburg.

The video footage was in false color relief — the “smoke” appeared white against a dark, solid background. But, in reality, the footage was captured in broad daylight on a sunny day with bright blue skies. A still frame of the facility taken with natural color showed a typical Rio Grande Valley ranchland landscape, the colors almost muted by the brightness of the spring sunlight. In the distance, a white venting stack rose towards the heavens, no “smoke” visible.
What Sharon Wilson had just shown the small group of approximately 15 members of Save RGV from LNG last Wednesday was footage she had captured of the gas emissions being spewed from the stack using a specialized video camera capable of capturing images in the infrared spectrum — beyond the capability of a naked human eye to see.

Wilson, a native of Wise County, is a certified optical gas imaging thermographer. She travels across the state armed with a $130,000 camera to document the energy industry and its emissions on behalf of the non-profit environmental organization, Earthworks.

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