14 may 2015

Study maps hundreds of methane gas leaks under streets in L.A. region

Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2015

An environmental group has identified nearly 250 locations where planet-warming methane is leaking from natural gas lines under streets in the Greater Los Angeles region.

Environmental Defense Fund researchers outfitted a Google Street View mapping car with real-time air monitoring equipment that can detect elevated levels of methane, the main component of natural gas. Starting in August, they drove the vehicle over more than 1,000 miles of roadways in Chino, Inglewood and Pasadena.

After analyzing the data in collaboration with scientists from Colorado State University, the researchers plotted the leaks and their relative size on an interactive map and reported the results to Southern California Gas Co., which serves millions of customers in Central and Southern California.

"These leaks are all over the place: In our neighborhoods and under our cities," Tim O’Connor, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund's California Climate Initiative, said in releasing the map Thursday.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Experts say that clamping down on methane leaks will be crucial to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s aggressive goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030.

The environmental group’s effort is the latest in a series of mapping projects in six U.S. cities, including Boston and Indianapolis. The Environmental Defense Fund plans to conduct additional methane mapping this summer in Orange.

Southern California Gas Co. on Thursday released its own interactive map of leaks the company has detected on its system but deemed to be non-hazardous. That map can be searched by ZIP Code and shows whether a pipeline leak is being monitored or is scheduled for repair.

Typically, leaks are considered non-hazardous if they are far from an ignition source and away from structures where gas could build up to dangerous concentrations.

Deanna Haines, director of gas engineering for the company, said utilities focus their efforts on repairing leaks that threaten public safety. But that is changing as the industry faces more scrutiny over its greenhouse gas emissions.

"This will help raise awareness that we need to get funding to go after these environmental-related emissions," Haines said.


>>> Back to list