5,900 natural gas leaks discovered under Washington, D.C.

Jan 16, 2014
5,900 natural gas leaks discovered under Washington, D.C.
This is a map of the District of Columbia showing where researchers found natural gas leaks under city streets, with colors indicating the concentration in parts per million of methane at each location. Credit: Duke University

More than 5,893 leaks from aging natural gas pipelines have been found under the streets of Washington, D.C. by a research team from Duke University and Boston University.

A dozen of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, the researchers said. Some manholes had concentrations as high as 500,000 parts per million of natural gas – about 10 times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur.

Four months after phoning in the leaks to city authorities, the research team returned and found that nine were still emitting dangerous levels of methane. "Finding the leaks a second time, four months after we first reported them, was really surprising," said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke who led the study.

The researchers published their findings this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"Repairing these leaks will improve air quality, increase consumer health and safety, and save money," Jackson said. "Pipeline safety has been improving over the last two decades. Now is the time to make it even better."

Nationally, natural gas failures cause an average of 17 fatalities, 68 injuries, and $133 million in property damage annually, according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

In addition to the explosion hazard, natural gas leaks also pose another threat: Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas that also can catalyze ozone formation. Pipeline leaks are the largest human-caused source of methane in the United States and contribute to $3 billion of lost and unaccounted for natural gas each year.

5,900 natural gas leaks discovered under Washington, D.C.
This is a satellite image of the District of Colombia with bar charts showing where natural gas leaks were located under city streets and in what concentration methane was identified. Higher bars indicate higher concentrations in parts per million. Credit: Duke University

Jackson's team collaborated with researchers from Boston University and Gas Safety, Inc., on the new study. The team mapped gas leaks under all 1,500 road miles within Washington using a high-precision Picarro G2301 Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer installed in a GPS-equipped car. Laboratory analyses then confirmed that the isotopic chemical signatures of the methane and ethane found in the survey closely matched that of pipeline gas.

The average methane concentration observed in the leaks was about 2.5 times higher than in background air samples collected in the city. Methane levels in some leaks were as high as 89 parts per million, about 45 times higher than normal background levels.

The team also measured how much methane was coming from four individual street-level leaks. "Methane emissions from these four leaks ranged from 9,200 to 38,200 liters per day for each leak—that's comparable to the amount of natural gas used by between 2 and 7 homes," said Duke Ph.D. student Adrian Down.

Last year, the team mapped more than 3,300 leaks beneath 785 road miles in the city of Boston. "The average density of leaks we mapped in the two cities is comparable, but the average methane concentrations are higher in Washington," said Nathan G. Phillips, a professor at Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment.

Like Washington and Boston, many U.S. cities have aging pipeline infrastructure that may be prone to leaks. The researchers recommend coordinated gas-leak mapping campaigns in cities where the infrastructure is deemed to be at risk.

The new study comes at a time when the nation's aging pipeline infrastructure is generating increased legislative attention. Last November, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced two new bills to speed up the replacement of pipelines in states with older infrastructures by offering new federal programs and incentives to help defray the costs associated with the repairs.

"We need to put the right financial incentives in place," said Jackson. "Companies and public utility commissions need help to fix leaks and replace old cast iron pipes more quickly."

Explore further: NOAA team discovers two vessels from WWII convoy battle off North Carolina

More information: "Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks Across Washington, D.C.," Robert B. Jackson, Adrian Down, Nathan G. Phillips, Robert C. Ackley, Charles W. Cook, Desiree L. Plata and Kaiguang Zhao. Environmental Science & Technology, January 16, 2014. dx.doi.org/10.1021/es404474x

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User comments : 26

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wellfeded
5 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2014
There a politician joke in here somewhere.
The Shootist
3 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
Here's hoping for the best planetary outcome.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2014
Time for a safer, cheaper, and less smelly power source

"Cranbury, NJ (January 14, 2014) — BlackLight Power, Inc. (BLP) today announced that it has produced millions of watts of power with its breakthrough Solid Fuel-Catalyst-Induced-Hydrino-Transition (SF-CIHT) patent pending technology in its laboratories.
Using a proprietary water-based solid fuel confined by two electrodes of a SF-CIHT cell, and applying a current of 12,000 amps through the fuel, water ignites into an extraordinary flash of power. The fuel can be continuously fed into the electrodes to continuously output power. BlackLight has produced millions of watts of power in a volume that is one ten thousandths of a liter corresponding to a power density of over an astonishing 10 billion watts per liter."

-Aren't you astonished???
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
Time for a safer, cheaper, and less smelly power source

"Cranbury, NJ (January 14, 2014) — BlackLight Power, Inc. (BLP) today announced that it has produced millions of watts of power with its breakthrough Solid Fuel-Catalyst-Induced-Hydrino-Transition (SF-CIHT) patent pending technology in its laboratories.
Using a proprietary water-based solid fuel confined by two electrodes of a SF-CIHT cell, and applying a current of 12,000 amps through the fuel, water ignites into an extraordinary flash of power. The fuel can be continuously fed into the electrodes to continuously output power. BlackLight has produced millions of watts of power in a volume that is one ten thousandths of a liter corresponding to a power density of over an astonishing 10 billion watts per liter."

-Aren't you astonished???

Now, that IS interesting, G. O.
krundoloss
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
"Cranbury, NJ (January 14, 2014) — BlackLight Power, Inc. (BLP) today announced that it has produced millions of watts of power with its breakthrough Solid Fuel-Catalyst-Induced-Hydrino-Transition (SF-CIHT) patent pending technology in its laboratories.
Using a proprietary water-based solid fuel confined by two electrodes of a SF-CIHT cell, and applying a current of 12,000 amps through the fuel, water ignites into an extraordinary flash of power. The fuel can be continuously fed into the electrodes to continuously output power. BlackLight has produced millions of watts of power in a volume that is one ten thousandths of a liter corresponding to a power density of over an astonishing 10 billion watts per liter."

-Aren't you astonished???


Oil Company Snipers are on their way. My hope is that they send this technology to other countries and they can put it to use! If I discovered another power source like this, I would send it to every government and industrial person I could!
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Jan 16, 2014
They've been at this for quite some time. Here's a discussion on an upcoming demonstration:
http://www.e-catw...tration/

-If true it could make certain technologies waiting for a sufficient power source (drones, robots, VASIMR) feasible. Mars transit in a few months could be a real possibility and a one-way trip unnecessary (but still desirable for many).

Here's Buffy removing one from a bad guy
http://youtu.be/5vQHPUDGkxE

Or it could be yet more quackery. Here's to an opaque future-
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2014
about 10 times greater than the threshold at which explosions can occur.


Fortunately, the explosion occurs at a concentration window, not just beyond some level.

Methane's explosive limits are between 5 and 15% so if you got 50% methane coming out of a manhole, that's not going to explode. It will produce a flame that burns at the hole, because there's too little oxygen in the mix to sustain an explosion, and can't be ignited from within the manhole because the mixture is simply too rich to burn.

El_Nose
not rated yet Jan 16, 2014
some of the numbers in the article are not qualified to make a comparison..

"Methane emissions from these four leaks ranged from 9,200 to 38,200 liters per day for each leak—that's comparable to the amount of natural gas used by between 2 and 7 homes," said Duke Ph.D. student Adrian Down.


so is that how much gas a home will use in a day/week/year ??
Returners
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2014
Don't worry though, we can always give a billion dollars per year to the muslims in Egypt or Pakistan. Can't afford to spend it on our own people or maintenance for infrastructure, be we can darn sure give it away to people who hate us, and who put mass murdering terrorists in a retirement resort.

God bless America, and God replace everyone in our government.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jan 16, 2014
Or it could be yet more quackery. Here's to an opaque future-

LOL. Isn't that the nature of "The Future" in a stickncarrot society?
MR166
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
Ghost do you really believe that press release?????????????????
Mike_Massen
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2014
Time for a safer, cheaper, and less smelly power source

"Cranbury, NJ (January 14, 2014) — BlackLight Power, Inc. (BLP)...
-Aren't you astonished???
NO.
Only when their power bill shows they have been selling power back to the utility !

Think about it, electricity is an expense for any developer & if there is even a minimal basis for their device then the FIRST thing to do is engineer a 'proof of concept' prototype to:-
a. Offset power consumed
&
b. Sell back to the utility

That way they prove at least the basic system works, even if woefully inefficient/size etc
This aids capital raising & allows them to enhance for next series of prototypes prior to pilot production & subsequent release to public...

Any, even slightly, intelligent manager would do this, wouldn't they ?
&
If not then WHY not ?
&
How long have they been doing this ?
&
Do they know the somewhat difficulty detail of measuring power, not just transient delivery but sum of ERGs!
cantdrive85
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 17, 2014
5,900 natural gas leaks discovered under Washington, D.C.

We need 5,900 volunteers to light 5,900 matches. Remember, it's for the greater good. I'd do it, but...
e-Liza1
1 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2014
"In addition to the explosion hazard, natural gas leaks also pose another threat: Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas that also can catalyze ozone formation."

Ozone formation is a good thing, not a bad thing. The ozone layer protects us from UV-B radiation. Its role as a greenhouse gas is bad though.

We need Blacklight Power (as TheGhostofOtto1923 quoted their latest breakthrough technology) which will save us all from the Greenhouse Effect and reduce power costs to very little and more. When will they start mass producing the CIHT cell? Very soon I hope!
Mike_Massen
5 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2014
e-Liza1 might have missed a very important point with
Ozone formation is a good thing, not a bad thing. The ozone layer protects us from UV-B radiation. Its role as a greenhouse gas is bad though.
Careful.
It fully depends just WHERE that ozone is generated which impacts how it is consumed, it is a powerful oxidiser & WHERE it ends up if not consumed & WHAT it does as it diffuses. We definitely don't want it at low altitudes, the ozone 'layer' is quite high, details here:-
http://en.wikiped...ne_layer

e-Liza1 continued with vain hope
We need Blacklight Power (as TheGhostofOtto1923 quoted their latest breakthrough technology) which will save us all from the Greenhouse Effect and reduce power costs to very little and more. When will they start mass producing the CIHT cell? Very soon I hope!
We really need a good understanding of Science, sophisticated experimental methodology, critical analysis etc.

Please see my earlier post re the power bill.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jan 17, 2014
Ghost do you really believe that press release?????????????????
I think it's very interesting. Isn't that enough??????????????????
Only when their power bill shows they have been selling power back to the utility !
Mikey you should read a little about it before commenting I think. Like Rossi they have at present no way of generating electricity from it. If the tech can do what they say it can then they will get $millions to develop ways of extracting power, in this case from MHD.

They might still get $millions anyways which may be the whole point of the exercise.
MR166
5 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2014
"Like Rossi they have at present no way of generating electricity from it. "

Yup, the parallels between the two are uncanny. I put them both in the "I'll believe it when I see it." category.
e-Liza1
3 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2014
Careful.
It fully depends just WHERE that ozone is generated which impacts how it is consumed, it is a powerful oxidiser & WHERE it ends up if not consumed & WHAT it does as it diffuses. We definitely don't want it at low altitudes, the ozone 'layer' is quite high, details here:-
http://en.wikiped...ne_layer


I couldn't find anything at that referenced article about problems with ozone in the lower atmosphere. Is there enough ozone produced to cause problems? The article did say that the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere itself is very tenuous. Does ozone produced in the troposphere remain in the troposphere or does it rise into the stratosphere?

e-Liza1 continued with vain hope...We really need a good understanding of Science, sophisticated experimental methodology, critical analysis etc.


Blacklight Power has had six scientific validations of its process by Phd's in the relevant fields. So critical analysis has taken place. My hope is not vain.
Mike_Massen
4 / 5 (4) Jan 17, 2014
TheGhostofOtto1923 fell into the trap most of erratic informal enquiry fall into when not understanding Science
.. read a little about it before commenting I think. Like Rossi they have at present no way of generating electricity from it.
You have demonstrated IGNORANCE of the highest order !

Heat, provides motive POWER for, guess what "TheGhostofOtto1923", Steam Turbines !

Any engineer of a 1st year understanding of mechanics & heat flow KNOWS a heat source & especially at good differential provides POWER, that is EASILY converted to electricity !

Perhaps you are NOT aware TheGhostofOtto1923, this is ALREADY done with Coal, it is done with Gas, it is done with Nuclear & done with Solar

Its a Steam Turbine- FFS !

So to read your completely Ignorant claim
..Like Rossi they have at present no way of generating electricity from it..
PROVES without a shadow of a doubt they do NOT have either a repeatable source of HEAT *AND* whats more are incompetent & need education !
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (4) Jan 17, 2014
Heat, provides motive POWER for, guess what "TheGhostofOtto1923", Steam Turbines !

Any engineer of a 1st year understanding
Like I say you should read up before spouting.

"The energetic plasma will be demonstrated. The energy and power balances will be measured using a commercial calorimeter that will quantify megaWatt power at a density of billions of watts per liter... We have to build the MHD converter for plasma to electric conversion, the basis of a later public demonstration."

-Youre an idiot.
Yup, the parallels between the two are uncanny
Rossi at least claims his commercial units can provide heating as they are now configured.

Someone asked him about turbines:

"We are continuing our R&D and validation work and we will pass to the coupling with turbines when we will have consolidated positive results at the end of this R&D and validation stage."
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2014
Ghost do you really believe that press release?????????????????
I think it's very interesting. Isn't that enough??????????????????
Only when their power bill shows they have been selling power back to the utility !
Mikey you should read a little about it before commenting I think. Like Rossi they have at present no way of generating electricity from it. If the tech can do what they say it can then they will get $millions to develop ways of extracting power, in this case from MHD.

They might still get $millions anyways which may be the whole point of the exercise.

The conversion component is where the REAL value (money) lies..
Mike_Massen
5 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2014
TheGhostofOtto1923 STILL doesnt get it, desperately needing education
"The energetic plasma will be demonstrated. The energy and power balances will be measured using a commercial calorimeter that will quantify megaWatt power at a density of billions of watts per liter... We have to build the MHD converter for plasma to electric conversion, the basis of a later public demonstration."

-Youre an idiot.
You sir are an uneducated prune.

Heat is VERY easy to convert to electricity with readily available off the shelf turbines.

Please please TheGhostofOtto1923 get a basic education in thermodynamics & its application to energy conversion devices commercially available for ages !

No-one 'needs' to design an MHD to use plasma, its dead easy to heat water with it and spin up a commercially available steam turbine, minor engineering !

TheGhostofOtto1923 needs EDUCATION re commercial production of steam turbines a& to defray his hypnotic attachment of Rossi's spin re MHD - wakeup !
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2014
I'm not a prune. You're a prune. You're not arguing with me, you're arguing with the people who are developing the tech.

'Why use the plasma as a heat source to drive a turbine and a generator when we can use the plasma to produce electricity directly?' -they are asking. 'And why waste all that effort to supply power to the grid when our backers want us to perfect the primary tech ASAP so they can beat the competition, patent it, and develop it commercially??' -they want to know.

It may occur to you that these questions have already been asked and answered. Why don't you do a little research and find out?
Rossi's spin re MHD - wakeup !
-And rodeos gizmo is not compatible with MHD. The hydrino process apparently produces plasma directly, which IS.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2014
Uh spellcheck thinks 'Rossi' is spelled 'rodeo'. Stupid AI.
MR166
5 / 5 (4) Jan 18, 2014
Ghost have you ever thought that Rossi and the like who are trying to market energy sources that are totally unknown to any sort of scientific research could be total scams?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2014
Ghost have you ever thought that Rossi and the like who are trying to market energy sources that are totally unknown to any sort of scientific research could be total scams?
Did you ever think to read my posts before responding to them?

"They might still get $millions anyways which may be the whole point of the exercise."