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CUB pushes cutting-edge “methane mapping” to identify gas leaks

Professor Joseph C. von Fischer describes “methane mapping” in this video by Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach. (Click image to see video.)

State regulators should require Peoples Gas to use a cutting-edge technology called “methane mapping” to locate Chicago’s leakiest gas pipes, according to expert testimony filed by CUB.

CUB is urging Chicagoans to send a message to state regulators in favor of methane mapping as a way to improve the utility’s pipeline replacement program, which has been rife with mismanagement and wasteful spending.

This month, CUB filed testimony from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as part of an Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) investigation (Docket 16-0376) of the pipeline program.

CUB and EDF argue that methane mapping could help the utility develop a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly pipe-replacement plan that targets the pipes with the worst leaks. (Leaky gas pipes are costly for customers, and they release methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.)

CUB and other consumer advocates are monitoring the program’s yearly costs and working with the ICC to identify wasteful spending, implement program reforms, and possibly secure customer refunds. Before regulators stepped in to investigate, projected costs for the program had quadrupled to about $8 billion.

Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that EDF used methane-detecting equipment on Google Street View cars to identify nearly 350 leaks, about one every three miles, in certain sections of the city.

Now, CUB’s testimony calls for Peoples Gas to use methane mapping to identify and prioritize leaky pipes to replace, and thus improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the pipeline program.

For more information

  • Watch this video on methane mapping.
  • Read the CUB testimony filed on Wednesday, Oct. 12:

Joseph C. von Fischer, an associate professor and associate chair of Biology at Colorado State University, describes the methane mapping technology that can help effectively and efficiently identify and replace leaky pipes. He also discusses methane mapping research he has done in Chicago.

Virginia Palacios, a Senior Research Analyst in the U.S. Climate and Energy Program at the Environmental Defense Fund, describes the benefits of methane mapping technology to prioritize pipe replacement in the Peoples Gas program.