The New York Public Service Commission recently approved plans by National Grid, the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast, to use advanced leak detection and quantification technologies developed by EDF and Google Earth Outreach in order to maximize the environmental and ratepayer benefits of a three-year, $3 billion capital investment program. This program includes plans to replace 585 miles of old, leak-prone pipes on the company’s systems in Long Island and parts of New York City.
The Commission’s December 16 order marks a major step forward in EDF’s efforts to accelerate the diffusion of environmentally beneficial technologies – in this case cutting edge methane emission measurement tools – by natural gas utilities. Read More
Data helps prioritize gas line replacement
By Simi Rose George and Virginia Palacios
A new method of prioritizing gas infrastructure improvements is resulting in faster reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey. Just over a year ago, we wrote about an order from the state’s Board of Public Utilities approving a settlement agreement for a $905 million, three-year pipe replacement program by PSE&G, New Jersey’s largest gas utility. This order, and the underlying settlement agreement were pioneering in one major aspect – PSE&G agreed to use environmental data to inform its infrastructure improvement efforts.
The order provided that the company would use data on leak flow rate (the speed at which methane is leaking from gas pipes) to help prioritize its local distribution pipe (“gas line”) replacement program. PSE&G is the first utility in the country to do so. The idea was that this data would be gathered by EDF as part of a collaborative project with Google Earth Outreach and Colorado State University through a survey of sections of PSE&G’s service territory targeted for gas line replacement. Read More
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and EDF Chief Scientist Steve Hamburg check out the methane-sniffing Google Street View car
*UPDATE: Days after this data was released, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued draft permits that will help reduce methane emissions from select oil and gas facilities across the state – making Pennsylvania the latest state to take commonsense action on methane .*
EDF and Google have released new interactive maps that show Pittsburgh residents just how much methane may be escaping from city pipelines.
Methane is the main component of natural gas. Millions of families across Pennsylvania and the country depend on it to heat homes and prepare their dinners. But when leaked into the atmosphere, it can wreak havoc on our climate, represent millions of dollars’ worth of wasted American energy, and pose serious risks to public health and safety.
That’s why we spent the past year working with Peoples Gas in Pittsburgh to use Google Street View mapping cars specially equipped with state-of-the-art methane sensors to determine how many pipeline leaks there are, how much methane is leaking, and where these leaks are located. Read More
The Los Angeles City Council recently passed a unanimous resolution requiring Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – the largest municipally-owned utility in the country — to study how the city can achieve a 100% clean energy future. With help from research partners, including academic institutions, the U.S. Department of Energy, and environmental and consumer groups, the study has the potential to become a foundational roadmap for running the utility on only clean and renewable energy.
California currently has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, with half of the state’s energy supply powered by renewable electricity by 2030. To achieve these targets, it is imperative for the state to look seriously at how to get off of fossil fuel dependency for our energy needs. Utilities and cities can be the key to reaching those climate goals. Read More
By Virginia Palacios and Holly Pearen
Plastic pipeline being placed in a trench.
The tragic 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion served as proof of how a small pipeline leak combined with human error can cause a devastating disaster. This has led the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to propose new regulations for gas pipelines across the country in order to prevent another major pipeline catastrophe.
At the same time, utilities are beginning to adopt advanced technologies and methods that provide better data to experts — helping to prevent accidents that threaten public health and safety. If PHMSA requires operators to use these emerging leak detection technologies and quantification and analytical methods, we could see improved utility safety programs and a decline in incidents related to human error. Read More
America is in the midst of two booms: one in sensor technology and another in natural gas. Recent innovations—specifically advancements in drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies—have dramatically increased the nation’s access to reserves of natural gas. While this influx of new technology has altered the energy industry, the resulting large-scale development has brought with it some real environmental and climate risks. Now is the time for the same ingenuity that transformed America’s energy landscape to help identify solutions to reduce the impacts caused by increasing supplies of natural gas.
Just this last month, two innovator programs were announced – one led by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and another from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) – both are focused on developing new technologies capable of minimizing methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain. The programs are different but complementary and together signal there is momentum building to engage the best and brightest innovators to help address a consequential component of the climate issue. Read More