New research shows Boston methane emissions continue, despite pipe replacement efforts

New peer-reviewed research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure and structures in the Boston area have stayed consistently high over the last 8 years, despite several programs aimed at lowering methane pipeline leakage.This study shows that more action is needed in Massachusetts and around the nation to deal with the metropolitan methane problem.A powerful greenhouse gas and the main element of natural gas, methane has at least 80 times the warming power of co2 during the first 10-20 years after release. Emissions from oil and gas operations, animals and other markets are accountable for at least 24% of present global warming.What they foundHarvard University scientists, in collaboration with other scholastic organizations and EDF, performed a top-down study of methane emissions throughout the Boston city region from 2012 to 2020. Utilizing sensors and a high-resolution transport design to track the methane, they discovered methane concentrations were greater than formerly approximated, and stayed elevated throughout the study period. New research shows Boston methane emissions continue, regardless of pipeline replacement efforts Click To TweetThey report that emissions from the Boston-area natural gas system are three times greater than state inventories formerly showed. This follows earlier studies across 6 other U.S. cities, which found gas system methane emissions were two to 6 times greater than stocks reported.The findings likewise raise another issue. Gas pipelines run at a consistent pressure, so leak rates tend to stay continuous no matter how much gas streams through the system. Alternatively, the emission levels found in the study fluctuated in action with gas intake, suggesting that methane may be getting away from structures and devices on the consumer side of the meter, after gas has left the circulation system.During the study period, Massachusetts gas energies spent $2.3 billion in ratepayer funds replacing old circulation pipes under a program authorized by the state legislature with the objective of changing the leakiest pipelines. Methane emissions in Boston have remained high despite considerable investment.Implications for pipeline replacement effortsA recent analysis of Massachusetts pipe replacement program found that it is most likely to cost $20 billion by 2040. Gas customers will be paying off those expenses for decades to come.As gas energies prepare for the transition to tidy energy and increased electrification, eye-popping figures like these highlight the risks of over-investment in fossil fuel facilities that could be rendered obsolete long prior to its anticipated life is up.EDF has actually raised concerns about the states existing methane standard with the state Department of Environmental Protection.MassDEP presently needs gas energies to report year-over-year emissions reductions, however the framework is connected exclusively to pipe replacement; they dont need to demonstrate actual decreases in methane emissions. Energies just report the quantity of pipeline changed with brand-new product, without regard for actual outcomes– while continuing to broaden their gas systems.A better wayThe existing basic disincentivizes gas energies from focusing on leak repair efforts, which can be less expensive than full-blown replacement.Instead of focusing entirely on pricey pipeline replacement, gas energies should use advanced leakage detection innovation and information analytics to recognize the biggest sources of methane leakage on their systems, prioritize leakage repair work and track the outcome.Research has shown that ALD+ can find 66% of gas leaks that traditional survey approaches miss, and it can yield a systemwide leak circulation rate to quantify methane emissions based upon observations (rather than bottom-up estimates). Instead of giving energies a totally free pass to spend billions of dollars on questionable pipeline replacement, EDF has actually recommended to MassDEP that the agency must need energies to utilize ALD+ and show decreasing methane emissions through leak repair work. Furthermore, utilities must recognize opportunities to retire dripping gas pipelines as building electrification programs reduce need for gas.Massachusetts has well-intentioned programs that were developed to reduce methane emissions from the gas distribution system, but as these programs prove to be inefficient, the state must think about brand-new methods to make sure alignment with climate goals.