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A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: Speedy
Date: November 04, 2018 04:48AM
[www.usatoday.com]

“Natural gas is distributed to homes across the USA through a network of aging pipes. Cincinnati Enquirer

In older American cities like New York and Boston, there can be as many gas leaks as there are miles of road.

How do we know? Because Google drove those city streets – and mapped every leak.

In some communities, those funny-looking Google Street View cars driving around taking pictures of houses and storefronts are also sniffing for natural gas – part of an effort to detect and fix leaks before they become bigger problems.

When those leaks spark fires or explosions, the cost can be measured in homes destroyed and lives lost. But even when they don't turn catastrophic, the nation's aging natural gas infrastructure has environmental and economic costs.

More: Pipeline peril: Natural gas explosions reveal silent danger lurking in old cast iron pipes

Methane – the lighter-than-air flammable gas that makes up almost 100 percent of natural gas – is also a greenhouse gas, as much as 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

One recent study found that methane leaks from the natural gas industry are 60 percent higher than previous EPA estimates, offsetting most of the climate benefits of using cleaner-burning natural gas over coal.”

>>>

“In data submitted to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, natural gas utilities said they fixed 493,862 leaks last year. Still, they ended the year with 85,304 known leaks unaddressed.

And under industry-written standards, that's an acceptable practice.

Utilities rate leaks on a three-point scale: Grade 1 leaks are hazardous and should be repaired immediately, but smaller Grade 3 leaks can remain unfixed for years.

Some of the largest utilities – the Boston Gas Co., Washington Gas and others – lose more than 3 percent of their gas to leaks, according to data they report to PHMSA.

For some smaller city-run utilities, losses are much higher. Ford City, Kansas, a town of 216 people that still sends gas customers handwritten bills, couldn't account for 40 percent of its gas last year.

Every state allows utilities to charge customers for gas lost on the way to their homes. The Supreme Court ruled in 1936 that gas leaks are "unavoidable, no matter how carefully the business is conducted."



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: DinerDave
Date: November 04, 2018 07:07AM
My town, Greenfield, Ma has a 100 year old infrastructure. My MIL's house and adjoining rental property has leaks that were known for years, under the road, not physically on the property. On a damp, humid day, you could smell the gas hovering around. After calling the fire dept. twice on those leaks, the gas company finally said the leaks were big enough to warrant repair.
The disaster in Andover, North Andover, Lawrence has really given the natural gas industry a bad rap, and deservedly so, IMO. Upgrades and improvements need to be done. It's like when I visit a popular tourist area and see run down rental properties. I wonder why the owners are not investing in the property like others around them. You need to invest and improve, so it all goes to crap.

Dave



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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: Speedy
Date: November 04, 2018 08:06AM
Gas is so cheap for the distributors that they simply are not motivated to fix leaks until houses explode and people die.



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: November 04, 2018 09:40AM
that's pretty amazing that the Google cars do that too. That's the power of 'crowdsourced' data collection. A town near me had a similar disaster.... every house on one sub gas line had sudden overpressure and four of the houses exploded. Fortunately nobody was killed because it happened during mid day on a school day. The residents are still dealing with lawsuits and the gas company is still arguing about it.

Buried infrastructure needs to be maintained, but with the privatization and continued takeover of infrastructure companies, stuff gets ignored or lost. And gas lines are not the biggest problem... water lines are a huge issue. Cleveland, for example, still has WOODEN water mains in some areas.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: JoeH
Date: November 04, 2018 11:34AM
Quote
DinerDave
My town, Greenfield, Ma has a 100 year old infrastructure. My MIL's house and adjoining rental property has leaks that were known for years, under the road, not physically on the property. On a damp, humid day, you could smell the gas hovering around. After calling the fire dept. twice on those leaks, the gas company finally said the leaks were big enough to warrant repair.
The disaster in Andover, North Andover, Lawrence has really given the natural gas industry a bad rap, and deservedly so, IMO. Upgrades and improvements need to be done. It's like when I visit a popular tourist area and see run down rental properties. I wonder why the owners are not investing in the property like others around them. You need to invest and improve, so it all goes to crap.

Dave

I live on a street in Greenfield that the gas company finally replaced the supply line last year. Might have something to do with the more than half a dozen repairs done in the previous 3-4 years on a stretch less than a quarter mile in length. Town decided to repave the road after that was done.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: Catzilla
Date: November 04, 2018 11:35AM
That's not entirely accurate. Utilities do monitor leaks and patrol mains, service lines, and meters on a regular basis. They also have a projected schedule to replace cast iron.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: JoeH
Date: November 04, 2018 11:49AM
Quote
Catzilla
That's not entirely accurate. Utilities do monitor leaks and patrol mains, service lines, and meters on a regular basis. They also have a projected schedule to replace cast iron.

Yeah, sure they do. That is not the issue, but their failure to follow up and tendency to rate leaks as being less in need of repair than actually called for is the problem.

In many cases the old cast iron pipes are not the source of the leak. Instead it is the joints between them. The oldest lines were installed to distribute "town gas" generated from coal at a moderate pressure. The joints were packed with oakum based sealants that dry out with the natural gas being put through them now. Town gas had a significant amount of water vapor that kept the oakum swelled up.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: Catzilla
Date: November 04, 2018 11:54AM
Quote
JoeH
Quote
Catzilla
That's not entirely accurate. Utilities do monitor leaks and patrol mains, service lines, and meters on a regular basis. They also have a projected schedule to replace cast iron.

Yeah, sure they do. That is not the issue, but their failure to follow up and tendency to rate leaks as being less in need of repair than actually called for is the problem.

In many cases the old cast iron pipes are not the source of the leak. Instead it is the joints between them. The oldest lines were installed to distribute "town gas" generated from coal at a moderate pressure. The joints were packed with oakum based sealants that dry out with the natural gas being put through them now. Town gas had a significant amount of water vapor that kept the oakum swelled up.

True.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: November 04, 2018 12:23PM
that's pretty amazing that the Google cars do that too.

My first thought, exactly!

I'd like do see video of that in action, to see the exact procedure and how it's narrowed do to whatever extent.




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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: jimmy d
Date: November 04, 2018 02:32PM
I hope Google is willing to share its data with those suing gas companies for damage they've suffered.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: JoeH
Date: November 04, 2018 08:34PM
Quote
RAMd®d
that's pretty amazing that the Google cars do that too.

My first thought, exactly!

I'd like do see video of that in action, to see the exact procedure and how it's narrowed do to whatever extent.

Probably a side effect from whatever imaging tech they are using in the Google cars.

DinerDave mentioned the natural gas disaster in the Lawrenceville area. Another near disaster was avoided within a week or two after that because a large leak was spotted on the FLIR display in a new chopper flying over a town nearby. A large area of road was showing up as a different color, when phoned in and checked it turned out to be a gas leak.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: Don C
Date: November 04, 2018 11:10PM
Short of a lit match, is there a way for a homeowner to check the gas lines inside the house and in the lines outside and around the house?

OK, one answer is the bubbles test (soapy water put on joints); another is feeling ill:
[www.youtube.com]

I don't have any medical symptoms nor rotten egg smells, so I don't think I have any problems, but many joints in this old house are not easily accessible so the bubbles test is not practical if i just wanted to double check. Thought there might be a "remote detector" of some sort.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/04/2018 11:17PM by Don C.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: C(-)ris
Date: November 05, 2018 12:32AM
Quote
Don C
Short of a lit match, is there a way for a homeowner to check the gas lines inside the house and in the lines outside and around the house?

OK, one answer is the bubbles test (soapy water put on joints); another is feeling ill:
[www.youtube.com]

I don't have any medical symptoms nor rotten egg smells, so I don't think I have any problems, but many joints in this old house are not easily accessible so the bubbles test is not practical if i just wanted to double check. Thought there might be a "remote detector" of some sort.

The gas company has leak detectors they use. They are expensive, so you won’t find any home use ones. Call them up and see if they will come out and check. If you are really concerned, replace all the pipe with new.



C(-)ris
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: Bill in NC
Date: November 05, 2018 11:36AM
Still can't believe gas companies up north haven't replaced the basement meter with an outside combination meter/regulator as it was done here from the get-go back in the 1950s/60s when our area got natural gas.
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Re: A gas leak every mile: Google Street View cars find problems that utilities don't
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: November 05, 2018 12:47PM
Another near disaster was avoided within a week or two after that because a large leak was spotted on the FLIR display in a new chopper flying over a town nearby. A large area of road was showing up as a different color, when phoned in and checked it turned out to be a gas leak.

That's also very interesting.

First, it hadn't occurred to me that something like FLIR would see a gas leak, but the differentiation makes sense.

And a news (assume that's what you meant) with FLIR? I like the idea, but what is they're use case? Aid in search and rescue?

Further, calling it in, instead of saying 'Oh look, some kind of creeping death on the road... Hey it's noon. The chick that sunbathes naked on the high rise should be out about now...'

Of course a lot of helo pilots are still former military, so I shouldn't be surprised.




I am that Masked Man.

Your boos mean nothing to me, I've seen what you cheer for.

Insisting on your rights without acknowledging your responsibilities isn’t freedom, it’s adolescence.

I've been to the edge of the map, and there be monsters.

We are a government of laws, not men.

Everybody counts or nobody counts.

When a good man is hurt,
all who would be called good
must suffer with him.

You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

There is no safety for honest men except
by believing all possible evil of evil men.

We don’t do focus groups. They just ensure that you don’t offend anyone, and produce bland inoffensive products. —Sir Jonathan Ive

An armed society is a polite society.
And hope is a lousy defense.

You make me pull, I'll put you down.

I *love* SIGs. It's Glocks I hate.
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