EDF Partners with Google Earth Outreach to Map Natural Gas Leaks Under U.S.
New Initiative Locates and Measures Seeping Methane, Highlights Unseen Climate
Risk; Interactive Online Maps Will Help Utilities, Regulators Accelerate
NEW YORK, July 16, 2014
NEW YORK, July 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Environmental Defense Fund
today unveiled interactive online maps showing natural gas leaks beneath the
streets of Boston, Indianapolis and New York City's Staten Island. Leaks like
these rarely pose an immediate safety threat, but the leaking natural gas –
which is mostly methane – has a powerful effect on the global climate,
carrying 120 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.
Maps for each city are available at http://edf.org/methanemaps. They
constitute the first phase of a pilot project developed using specially
equipped Google Street View mapping cars, under a partnership between EDF and
Google Earth Outreach to explore and unlock the potential of new sensing and
analytical technologies to measure environmental indicators in ways that have
been difficult or impossible until now, and to make that information more
accessible to everybody.
EDF also worked closely with several leading utilities to validate the
findings, which offer a valuable new way for both system operators and
regulators to focus and accelerate upgrades. Visitors to the website can
nominate their communities as future candidates for the mapping project.
"New technology has given us vastly greater ability to make environmental data
available for everyone to see, and to use that information to solve
environmental problems by making better decisions," said EDF's Chief Scientist
Steven Hamburg. "Methane leaks are a pervasive challenge throughout the
natural gas industry. This is an ideal chance to put new science to work and
to solve a major real-world challenge."
The maps were created using three Google Street View cars specially equipped
with sophisticated methane sensing technology. EDF and researchers at Colorado
State University spent two years experimenting with the system and developing
analytical tools to not only locate, but also accurately assess the amount of
gas escaping from even small leaks detected amid 15 million individual
readings collected over thousands of miles of roadway.
"Environmental quality is an issue that affects everyone. Making this
information more accessible can make a meaningful difference in people's
quality of life," said Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Program Manager for Google Earth
Outreach. "This pilot project is meant to explore and understand the potential
for EDF and others to map and visualize important environmental information in
ways that help people understand both problems and solutions."
Natural gas utilities routinely monitor their systems for safety, as required
by state and federal regulations. But current methods involve specialized
personnel and equipment, and until now it was difficult to determine how much
gas is escaping from a given a leak. While major leaks are typically fixed
quickly, vast numbers of others wait months or years for repair. By showing
just how much gas is escaping, the technology developed by EDF and Google
Earth Outreach illustrates the true scale of the problem.
"We are taking action, accelerating natural gas pipeline replacement to reduce
leaks while enhancing safety and reliability, and this kind of technology and
data offers valuable insights," said Susan Fleck, vice president, Pipeline
Safety for National Grid. "We've taken a leadership role on a national level
and support initiatives underway to reduce methane emissions. There is a
significant investment that comes with these improvements and that can have an
impact on our customers. We are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas
emissions by working with our regulators and elected leaders to develop
appropriate funding mechanisms and policies to achieve these goals."
Leaks occur throughout the natural gas supply chain. Until recently, little
was known about exactly how much was being lost or where. So in 2012, EDF
embarked on the largest research project in its 47-year history: Sixteen
independent studies to better understand how much methane is escaping as it
makes its way to the end user. In addition to the work with Google Earth
Outreach, these efforts include studies of well sites, processing facilities,
and long distance pipelines, as well as commercial trucks and refueling
"Until now, these smaller leaks have not been a priority in most places. Yet
we can see from these maps just how much they can add up," said Mark
Brownstein, EDF Associate Vice President & Chief Counsel for Natural Gas. "By
pulling vast amounts of information together in a place that offers simple,
clickable visualization, the platform is going to be an important advocacy
tool, one that helps shift resources to an area of historic underinvestment."
EDF and Google Earth Outreach will be mapping methane leaks in more cities as
part of the current project, and they will begin working to map other air
pollutants this summer. The EDF algorithms will be published in a
peer-reviewed scientific paper later this year, and made available on an
Readers should note that the current maps were generated based on months of
testing and analysis, with each leak verified with at least two sampling runs
on dates noted on the maps. While they constitute a thorough and accurate
picture of conditions at the time of measurement, the information in the maps
has not been updated to reflect real-time status. Some of the leaks on the
maps could have been repaired, while others may have developed. Anyone who
smells gas, or is otherwise concerned about a leak in their neighborhood
should contact their local utility immediately.
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit
organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious
environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative
private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and
EDF: Jon Coifman, 212-616-1325, email@example.com
Google: Katie Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
National Grid: Chris Milligan, 781-907-3980
SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund
Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.