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Methane Sniffers

March 23, 2017

Google’s fleet of Street View cars is helping sniff out gas leaks.

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136007_web Some Google Street View cars have been specially equipped with methane analyzers to detect methane lakes from natural gas lines. Environmental Defense Fund

Some Google Street View cars have been specially equipped with methane analyzers to detect methane lakes from natural gas lines. (Environmental Defense Fund)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Google searches for gas leaks. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Google Street View cars zoom along every road in America, shooting the streetview images you see on Google Maps. In the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Colorado State University system ecologist Joseph von Fischer and his colleagues describe outfitting some of the cars with methane detectors, to see if they could sniff out leaks in natural gas pipes wherever they drove.

JOSEPH VON FISCHER (Colorado State University):

Can we find the largest of these leaks in the survey area, and can we rank them so that utilities can try to repair the leakiest of these natural gas leaks that are in their service area?

HIRSHON:

They found that fixing just the worst eight percent of the leaks would save thirty percent of their lost methane. And since methane is a major contributor to global warming, that will not only save gas companies money, but it will help reduce a major environmental threat as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon