A Boston University associate professor is using gas detection equipment to find natural gas leaks in the Greater Boston area - and he is finding plenty, according to a story in the Boston Globe.
Nathan Phillips, associate professor of geography and the environment, started driving the streets of Boston looking for natural gas leaks, and he was stunned to find they numbered in the thousands, the Globe reported. He wanted to document the extent of leaks because of concerns that the gas could harm trees and add to greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Then he found a leak that posed a more immediate danger, and it was near his home.
Phillips found the leak at a manhole in front of the West Newton Cinema. Twice in the past month, he detected the levels of methane in the atmosphere there to be about 6 percent, which regulators and gas companies consider a potential explosion hazard.
The Globe reported that aging pipelines in Massachusetts have more than 21,000 leaks, according to gas company records.
Phillips detects gas leaks using a new device called a cavity ring-down spectrometer, which he puts in the trunk of his car so he can take measurements as he drives. "Cambridge Street between Storrow Drive and Government Center: very leaky," he told the Globe. "Harvard Street in Brookline between Commonwealth Avenue and Coolidge Corner is also very leaky... . Beacon Street from Coolidge Corner out through Newton to Newton Center, that's very leaky."
Massachusetts gas companies reported that 8.2 billon cubic feet of natural gas was unaccounted for in 2007, according to the Globe. Phillips calculates that is the equivalent of about 4 to 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts that year, since methane's contribution to global warming is 25 times greater than the same amount of carbon dioxide.
Click here to read the Boston Globe story.
Phillips' work has also been reported by Boston University.