Nathan Phillips, Boston University
Image showing relative volume of methane leaks at various locations around Boston.
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.
About Boston University
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. As Boston University’s largest academic division, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is the heart of the BU experience with a global reach that enhances the University’s reputation for teaching and research.Link to article:
Sara Rimer | Newswise Science News
Oceans may be large, overlooked source of hydrogen gas
21.07.2016 | Duke University
Groundwater discharge to upper Colorado River Basin varies in response to drought
21.07.2016 | US Geological Survey
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis
A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...
Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.
In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...
Chemists at the University of Basel have succeeded in using computer simulations to elucidate transient structures in proteins. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, the researchers set out how computer simulations of details at the atomic level can be used to understand proteins’ modes of action.
Using computational chemistry, it is possible to characterize the motion of individual atoms of a molecule. Today, the latest simulation techniques allow...
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
11.07.2016 | Event News
22.07.2016 | Information Technology
22.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
22.07.2016 | Life Sciences