Gas Safety Inc. collaborates with Boston University, Duke University and Picarro Inc. on Boston Gas Leak Study
December 8, 2012
Department of Public Utilities
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Congressman Ed Markey
5 High Street, Suite 101
Medford, Ma. 02155
Governor Deval Patrick
Massachusetts State House
Office of the Governor
Office of the Lt. Governor
Boston, MA 02133
Mayor Thomas Menino
City of Boston
Boston City Hall
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Joint Committee, Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
Senator Brian Downing
Representative John D. Keenan
Re: Fox News
Re: Boston Globe
As president of Gas Safety inc. and a collaborator on the Boston Gas Leak Study I would like to address recent comments regarding the size of outstanding grade 3 leaks. The study was conducted utilizing sophisticated Picarro inc., Cavity Ringdown Spectrometry CRDS technology that detects methane in the parts per billion and then plots these readings via GPS coordinates. Researchers at Boston University, Duke University, Harvard University, policy advocates at Conservation Law Foundation and industry partners Picarro inc. and Gas Safety Inc., have been using this information to formulate policy regarding public safety and the effects on the environment from leaking natural gas. My work with government compliance gas leak detection and gas leak classification in the natural gas industry and subsequent work regarding damage to trees caused by leaking natural gas brought me to this work with academic researchers trying their best to provide fact based information to formulate and guide policy makers.
NGRID and NSTAR (operators within the City of Boston) current leak classification of mechanical failure and corrosion gas leakage, as opposed to third party damage or earth movement leakage that is immediately repaired, has more to do with the location of the leak and the leaks potential to cause an explosion, rather than the volume of the lost gas. There are thousands of high volume loss grade three gas leaks that have been leaking for years. The fact that these leaks are not an explosion hazard does not mean that the leaks are not an environmental hazard both to vegetation and the atmosphere.
PHMSA leak classification guidelines for small operators as outlined in table 3a defines a grade 1 leak as:
“A leak that represents an existing or probable hazard to persons or property, and requires immediate repair or continuous actions until the conditions are no longer hazardous.”
Grade 2 leak:
“A leak that is recognized as non-hazardous at the time of detection, but justifies scheduled repair based on probable future hazard.”
Grade 3 leak:
“A leak that is non-hazardous at the time of detection and can reasonably be expected to remain non-hazardous”
If we adopt the PHMSA guidelines, then any leak that is an existing or potential hazard to persons or property would require immediate action. Trees and other vegetation, whether public or privately owned, are susceptible to damage and death from exposure to natural gas leaks.
Current leak classification by many Massachusetts operators knowingly ignores natural gas leakage that is causing millions of dollars of damage to public shade trees and other vegetation. Gas Safety Inc. has documented thousands of gas leaks in Brookline, Milton, Hingham, Saugus, Newton, Quincy, Lynn, Nahant and Revere that have caused millions of dollars of damage to their public shade trees.
Years of neglect and complacency by the natural gas industry coupled with a lack of oversight by regulators has allowed this problem to exacerbate to current status where operators even when notified that a gas leak is damaging property, take no action to remedy the situation. Gas Safety inc. and client communities have taken civil action seeking compensation for damages caused by the leaking natural gas and repair of leaks that are within the root zones of public shade trees.
I am personally inviting interested parties to a demonstration of the technology used in this work and site visits to high volume grade 3 leaks and grade 3 leaks that are causing damage to vegetation. There is ongoing research to quantify flux rates from mechanical failure and corrosion caused gas leakage that will help in assessing the effects on the atmosphere and on Lost and Unaccounted for Gas (LUAF) policy where this lost gas is charged back to the ratepayers.
Through fact based information, we all benefit!