Lost and Unaccounted Natural Gas

  • Lead Faculty: Lucy Hutyra, Nathan Phillips
  • Partners: The Barr Foundation, Robert Ackley (Gas Safety Inc), Eric Crosson ( Picarro Inc.), Colm Sweeney (NOAA/ESRL), Sze Tan (Gas Safety Inc), Jocelyn Turnbull (NOAA/ESRL)

Methane measurement

Figure: Methane concentration measurements in Boston displayed in Google Earth. Peaks correspond to methane concentrations up to levels five times background levels. These measurements were typical of measurements made throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.

In Boston, Massachusetts and around the country, neglected infrastructure shows increasing signs of decay and dysfunction. ¬†Leaks in water, sewer, and other civil infrastructure are receiving well-deserved attention. Less well publicized are the pervasive leaks in our natural gas distribution systems. Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, has a recently completed a comprehensive mapping of thousands of leaks in the City of Boston, the first study of its kind. Using a special meter that is highly sensitive to trace amounts of methane, Dr. Phillips is able to record gas leaks that the gas company’s equipment cannot detect. These gas leaks are damaging, and sometimes fatal, to trees.

Within a broader context, Dr. Phillips work focuses on the impact these leaks have on our economic, ecological and environmental, systems as well as human health. His studies include the ecology of interdependent infrastructure systems within and across rural, suburban, and urban communities with proposals as how we can address these infrastructure problems comprehensively.

Download: Abstract: Identification of Methane Measurements in an Urban Setting