Monday, September 14, 2015

Potent methane leaking from old pipes under Manhattan

                                                                                                                                        New York Times photo
Methane is spewing from more than 1,000 natural gas leaks under Manhattan, giving it 10 times the number of leaks per mile in its aging natural gas pipelines as cities with more up-to-date infrastructure, according to a study 
published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Phil McKenna reports for Inside Climate News that:

Methane is the second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide, making the reduction of methane emissions a high priority in fighting climate change.
While methane emissions are significantly smaller than those of CO2, methane is much more potent as a greenhouse gas, trapping 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and 34 times more over 100 years.

In the study, researchers measured concentrations of methane on the streets of New York, which has a high concentration of decades-old cast iron and steel pipes beneath its streets. They compared the findings with measurements in Durham, N.C., and Cincinnati, which recently replaced their aging pipelines.

"What was surprising was how well [pipeline replacement] programs worked," said lead author Robert Jackson of Stanford University. "They reduced leaks to very low densities."

Methane leaks are the subject of
an $18 million project led by the Environmental Defense Fund that includes work by more than 100 researchers. That project, which is not affiliated with the current study, is being done in collaboration with the natural gas industry and utilities.

The researchers in the Manhattan study concluded that pipes under Manhattan averaged 4.3 leaks for each mile of pipe. Durham had 0.2 leaks per mile and Cincinnati had 0.5.

Replacing the pipes, some of which have been in use for more than 100 years, also improves air quality and reduces the risk of explosion.
One such explosion killed eight people and destroyed an apartment building in East Harlem in 2014.
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