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 July 23, 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 July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
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:
from the past week

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