New Jersey Gas Utilities Embrace New Technology to Cut Greenhouse Emissions

Elizabethtown Gas agreement sets benchmark as Gov. Murphy shapes Energy Master Plan requiring advanced leak detection

August 7, 2019
Debora Schneider, (212) 616 1377,

(NEWARK, NJ – August 7, 2019) New Jersey’s Elizabethtown Gas is deploying technology originally pioneered by the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Google Earth Outreach to reduce greenhouse emissions and enhance the safety of their underground pipeline network. The company will map and measure otherwise invisible methane leaks using mobile sensors and advanced analytics to maximize environmental results on its system.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. It is also the main ingredient in natural gas. Methane leaks are a persistent challenge for utilities, particularly in the Northeast, where the infrastructure is older. Utility leaks are the biggest source of industrial methane in New Jersey. 

Under a five-year, $300 million Infrastructure Investment Program approved in June by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), Elizabethtown will become among the state’s first gas utilities to integrate advanced leak detection technology. The agreement represents a key benchmark for Gov. Phil Murphy’s new Energy Master Plan, recommending that all gas utilities in the state  adopt the practice.

The latest multi-agency hearing on the Energy Master Plan is scheduled this Thursday, August 8, at the Seton Hall Law School in Newark.

“New Jersey has been at the forefront in deploying this technology. Both utilities and regulators recognized an opportunity to fix a big environmental challenge more quickly and cost effectively by embracing innovation,” said EDF Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Mary Barber. “The results show that it’s time to take the solution statewide, and to set an example for the rest of the country.”

Leak maps created in advance of the new plan by EDF, Google and researchers at Colorado State University using a specially equipped Google Street View mapping car revealed one leak every 1.7 miles in selected sections of the Elizabethtown Gas territory. From 2016 to 2018, the company reduced its leak prone pipeline mileage by 17%, but the company still has about 400 miles of pipe made from cast iron or other leak-prone material. Nearly a third of their mains were installed before 1970.

“Safety is Elizabethtown Gas’ top priority,” said Christie McMullen, president, Elizabethtown Gas (ETG). “ETG vigilantly monitors the integrity of our system, meeting or exceeding federal safety standards, and prioritizing leaks in a way that ensures the safety of our customers, employees and the communities we serve. We’ve eliminated over 35 percent of the leaks previously identified by EDF and reduced ETG’s overall methane emissions. With the acquisition of ETG by SJI in 2018, we are more aggressively pursuing a reduction in our leak inventory through the recently approved five-year Infrastructure Improvement Program, using advanced leak detection technology to eliminate vintage materials from our system and drive the state’s emission reduction goals.”

The draft Energy Master Plan released in June is a blueprint for transitioning New Jersey’s energy profile to 100% clean energy, as directed by Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 28, and reducing greenhouse emissions 80% from 2006 levels by 2050 in accordance with the state’s Global Warming Response Act. The effort is led by the BPU in collaboration with Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Since 2014, EDF has demonstrated the accuracy and effectiveness of advanced mobile methane detection technology with local gas utilities in more than a dozen U.S. communities.

An earlier series of pilot projects with New Jersey utility, PSE&G, starting in 2015 continues to show excellent results. For example, three tracts prioritized represented just 9% of the gas line miles sampled but accounted for over 37% of the methane emissions measured. The measurement technology enabled PSE&G to achieve an 83% reduction of methane emissions by replacing one-third fewer miles of piping than under a business as usual scenario.

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