Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Thousands of natural gas leaks discovered in Boston

Date:
November 20, 2012
Source:
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences
Summary:
The City of Boston is riddled with more than 3,000 leaks from its aging natural-gas pipeline system, according to a new study.

A map showing natural gas emissions across the city.
Credit: Image courtesy of Boston University College of Arts & Sciences

The City of Boston is riddled with more than 3,000 leaks from its aging natural-gas pipeline system, according to a new study by researchers at Boston (BU) and Duke Universities.

Their findings appear this week in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution.

The new study comes in the wake of devastating fires fueled by natural gas during Hurricane Sandy. Potential damage to gas pipeline pressure regulators, caused by flooding in Hurricane Sandy, has raised ongoing safety concerns in New York and New Jersey.

The researchers report finding 3,356 separate natural gas leaks under the streets of Boston. "While our study was not intended to assess explosion risks, we came across six locations in Boston where gas concentrations exceeded the threshold above which explosions can occur," said Nathan Phillips, associate professor in BU's Department of Earth and Environment and co-author of the study.

Nationally, natural gas pipeline failures cause an average of 17 fatalities, 68 injuries, and $133M in property damage annually, according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. In addition to the explosion hazard, natural gas also poses a major environmental threat: Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas that degrades air quality. Leaks in the United States contribute to $3 billion of lost and unaccounted for natural gas each year.

"Repairing these leaks will improve air quality, increase consumer health and safety, and save money," said co-author Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke. "We just have to put the right financial incentives into place."

Phillips and Jackson's teams collaborated with industry partners Robert Ackley of Gas Safety, Inc., and Eric Crosson of Picarro, Inc., on the study. They mapped the gas leaks under Boston using a new, high-precision methane analyzer installed in a GPS-equipped car. Driving all 785 road miles within city limits, the researchers discovered 3,356 leaks.

The leaks were distributed evenly across neighborhoods and were associated with old cast-iron underground pipes, rather than neighborhood socioeconomic indicators. Levels of methane in the surface air on Boston's streets exceeded fifteen times the normal atmospheric background value.

Like Boston, other cities with aging pipeline infrastructure may be prone to leaks. The researchers recommend coordinated gas-leaks mapping campaigns in cities where the infrastructure is deemed to be at risk. The researchers will continue to quantify the health, safety, environmental, and economic impacts of the leaks, which will be made available to policymakers and utilities as they work to replace and repair leaking natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

Lucy Hutyra, Assistant Professor and Max Brondfield, technician, worked with Phillips on this study at Boston University. At Duke, PhD student Adrian Down, postdoctoral researcher Kaiguang Zhao, and research scientist Jon Karr assisted Jackson with his research.

The study was supported by the Barr Foundation, Conservation Law Foundation, National Science Foundation, Picarro, Inc., Boston University and Duke University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nathan G. Phillips, Robert Ackley, Eric R. Crosson, Adrian Down, Lucy R. Hutyra, Max Brondfield, Jonathan D. Karr, Kaiguang Zhao, Robert B. Jackson. Mapping urban pipeline leaks: Methane leaks across Boston. Environmental Pollution, 2013; 173: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2012.11.003

Cite This Page:

Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Thousands of natural gas leaks discovered in Boston." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120121839.htm>.
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. (2012, November 20). Thousands of natural gas leaks discovered in Boston. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120121839.htm
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Thousands of natural gas leaks discovered in Boston." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120121839.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 29, 2014) CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, celebrates 60 years of bringing nations together through science. As Joanna Partridge reports from inside the famous science centre it's also planning to turn the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator back on after an upgrade. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) Researchers from the University of Rochester have created a type of invisibility cloak with simple focal lenses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Corvette Can Secretly Record Convos And Get You Arrested

New Corvette Can Secretly Record Convos And Get You Arrested

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) The 2015 Corvette features valet mode – which allows the owner to secretly record audio and video – but in many states that practice is illegal. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins