By Roy L Hales
Some of PSE&G’s (PSE&G) natural gas pipelines were laid down a century ago. The New Jersey utility continued using cast iron until the 1950s. Now there is approximately one methane leak for each of the pipeline’s 3,900 miles. Though PSE&G intends to replace the entire cast iron and unprotected steel infrastructure, this is too costly ($1.5 million to $2.0 million per mile)to do overnight. With the help of new technology developed by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Google and Colorado State University. PSE&G is natural gas pipeline emissions by 83% in the area surveyed area, while replacing about 1/3 less mileage to do so.
Reducing Natural Gas Pipeline Emissions 83%
This breakthrough came through a specially-equipped Google Street View mapping car that measures the volume of methane escaping. This allows the utility to help prioritize areas for replacement after assessing their safety first. The EDF spent six months, collecting millions of readings from New Jersey’s streets. A number of the leaks, including all those that PSE&G deemed hazardous, have now been fixed.
Replacing 510 miles Of Aging Pipeline
EDF and its’ partners have been developing their leak detection technique since 2014.
Intrigued by the methodology, PSE&G asked if EDF would like to measure the leaks in areas where their natural gas pipelines were slated for replacement.
“PSE&G deserves a lot of credit for making this a priority. It takes courage to invite an environmental group to come sniffing around for leaks on their system,” said EDF President Fred Krupp.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved a $905 million program that will fund the replacement of up to 510 miles of aging cast-iron and unprotected steel gas lines.
“We are accelerating the modernization of our gas system, replacing 170 miles of pipe each year versus an average of 54 miles in the past,”said Ralph LaRossa, president and COO of PSE&G.
Effect On The Climate
“Leaking methane – the main ingredient in natural gas – has a powerful effect on the climate, packing over 80 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. The leaks also waste gas that customers are already paying for. Fixing these leaks is a huge opportunity to achieve major greenhouse gas reductions quickly and cost effectively,” said an EDF spokesperson.
Though the world will eventually transition to a low carbon economy, PSE&G expects to be using natural gas well into the future. There is no question that reviewing the emissions from their pipelines 83%, and reducing them at a faster rate, will help in the fight against rising global temperatures.
A company spokesperson added, “That said, we have also been installing more solar – from small panels on utility poles to large landfill and brownfield sites that all feed into the electric grid. And we just received approval to expand that program to do more.”
Top Photo Credit: Google Street View mapping car – Courtesy Environmental Defense Fund