How do twenty homes in three communities north of Boston just up and explode? It's easy, rotten infrastructure.
Infrastructure is more than roads and overpasses. It also is everything from water mains, fire hydrants, the electrical grid, sewer lines and, yes, gas lines.
Back in 2012, scientists took a ride through Boston streets identifying and mapping leaks from the city's ancient gas lines.
To take a snapshot of this problem, scientists from Boston University and Duke University took equipment that detects methane — the main constituent of natural gas — on a 785-mile van ride through Boston’s streets. The result, published today in the journal Environmental Pollution, is a map showing more than 3,300 spikes in gas concentrations representing leaks of various sizes.What they found looks like this:
The video is spectacular. Using infrared camera technology you can see plumes of fugitive natural gas come up through streets and sidewalks, all day and all night, month upon month, year upon year.
The Duke team took their gear to Washington, D.C., where they found 5,900 leaks.
In this era of 'everyday low taxes' it's unclear where the funding will come from to repair our aging gas infrastructure which is going to have to compete for scarce revenues with badly needed repairs to everything else - our aging water and sewer lines, roads and highways, bridges and overpasses, the electrical grid, on and on. It's been estimated these repairs, replacements and upgrades would cost Canada upwards of a trillion dollars but far more than that in economic losses if we don't fix these things.
The fracking industry is another major source of fugitive methane emissions. Environmentalists equipped with infrared cameras have been monitoring large gas leaks on active sites where crews are still working. And then there are other leaks along transmission lines.
What looks like steam coming off is actually methane recorded on infrared.