New Jersey’s largest utility today agreed to use advanced leak detection technology and data analytics piloted by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Colorado State University to map and measure leaks from underground natural gas lines. The deal is part of $1.875 billion settlement approved by the Board of Public Utilities involving Public Service Electric and Gas, EDF and other stakeholders to extend PSE&G’s accelerated program to replace hundreds of miles of aging pipes.
The new technology is specifically designed to find smaller leaks that don’t necessarily pose a safety risk, but which collectively emit large amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Utilities and regulators nationwide are increasingly focused on methane emissions as a growing body of research shows both the scale of the problem and the environmental benefits of fixing it.
“Reducing methane emissions is one of the quickest ways we have to protect the climate. PSE&G deserves credit for making this a priority,” said Mary Barber, EDF Director of Strategic Alignment and Performance. “By tackling these leaks faster, PSE&G will achieve a lot more environmental benefit for their infrastructure dollars. That’s good for their customers, and good for New Jersey.”
Under the deal, PSE&G will replace 875 miles of cast iron and unprotected steel gas mains over five years. The company will work with advanced leak detection technology contractors to survey 280 miles of its most leak-prone pipe this spring and summer. Together with EDF, PSE&G will use the new measurement tools to estimate leak rates, targeting the leakiest sections for replacement first in order to achieve the greatest emissions reduction quickest.
The plan is based on a successful pilot project. Using data gathered by Google Street View mapping cars equipped with the system developed by EDF and CSU, PSE&G achieved an 83% reduction in methane emissions in some of the most densely populated areas in New Jersey, including parts of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties, while replacing one-third fewer miles of gas lines it would have needed to get the same result before. The typical cost of replacing a mile of gas line on PSE&G’s system is about $1.5 million to $2.0 million.
PSE&G will provide annual reports detailing their progress and the results achieved using the new approach compared with business as usual.
Leaking natural gas – which is mostly methane – has a powerful effect on the climate. That’s because methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. These leaks are a persistent challenge for utilities, particularly in the Northeast, where natural gas infrastructure is older.
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