Pipeline replacement programmes in cities can cut natural gas leaks by 90%, a new Stanford-led study finds.
"Infrastructure investments save lives, help the environment and, over time, will put money in people's pockets," said Jackson, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and at the Precourt Institute for Energy.
The team from Stanford; Duke University; the US Department of Energy; Gas Safety, Inc.; Ohio State University; and Boston University published their work this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
In recent years the team mapped 3400 natural gas pipeline leaks across Boston and 5900 leaks in Washington, D.C. The likelihood of a leak in those cities was similar to Manhattan – 4.3 leaks per mile. In contrast, Durham and Cincinnati had only 0.22 and 0.47 leaks per mile, respectively. "The benefit of pipeline replacement was obvious driving around the cities," said Morgan Gallagher, a postdoctoral researcher in Jackson’s lab.
"The surprise wasn't that replacement programs worked," said Rob Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor at Stanford. "It was that they worked so well."
Jackson and his team drove cars equipped with sensitive methane-mapping instruments across 1600 road miles of Manhattan, NY; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Durham, NC. They discovered only one-tenth the number of leaks per mile in Durham and Cincinnati, where public-private partnerships have replaced outdated pipelines, than in Manhattan or in Boston and Washington, D.C., two cities that the team had mapped previously.
Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner
Sources: Stanford News, Phys.org