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Leaking gas pipelines may be more prevalent and cost American consumers more than we once thought. Recent reports from the northeastern U.S. indicate that metropolitan cities have thousands of leaks which consumers have paid billions for in unaccounted gas charges. One research team, led by Robert Jackson, a scientist at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and Bob Ackley, a former gas inspector, turned up some interesting results after surveying process pipelines in the Boston area, and most recently in Washington D.C. They were measuring leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component of natural gas. In terms of warming the atmosphere, methane is also 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
 
 

Although the results for the District of Columbia are not final, preliminary numbers indicate that the natural gas distribution system in our nation’s capital has thousands of leaks. This is a problem that is common to older cities, given that the age of the process pipelines is at least 50 years. In Boston alone, the research team discovered more than 3300 leaks. Washington D.C. is suspected to have twice the number due to its size. In a city like Washington, the pipeline distribution system consists of cast iron pipe, unprotected or protected steel pipe, plus copper and plastic pipe. Project this across the United States and we are talking about hundreds of thousands of gas leaks. Although we know of the leaks, the effort to determine where exactly those leaks are occurring and how big they are has just begun.
leaking gas pipes
Corroded and leaking gas pipelines cost Americans $20 billion between 2000 and 2011, according to the recent congressional report “America Pays for Gas Leaks”. Photo courtesy of naturalgaswatch.org

 

Leaking gas pipelines are definitely a concern for gas utilities when it comes to potential explosion risks. However, less priority is put on less risky pipes that are leaking. The problem with this method is that risky pipelines can be missed, not to mention the loss of resources and the harmful effects of additional methane leaking into the environment. In addition, gas companies calculate the difference between the amount of gas they send out and the amount that is metered at customer’s homes or businesses. The difference is referred to as “lost and unaccounted-for gas.” Some public utility commissions allow the utilities to charge their customers for this difference. In Washington D.C. this comes to 3{f00316eaeff19fc4d3daa6454136ee4db9a0ad1868aa2a79e58a2db09827821d} of a customer’s total monthly cost, according to The Washington Post in March, 2013. A recent report titled “America Pays for Gas Leaks” was released by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) found that American consumers are spending tens of billions of dollars on fuel that never reaches their homes. Consumers in Massachusetts alone have paid up to $1.5 billion between 2000 and 2011 because utility companies are not fixing or replacing thousands of miles of old pipelines. Nationally, consumers spent $20 billion. And from 2002 to 2012, almost 800 significant incidents on gas distribution pipelines — including several hundred explosions — killed 116 people, injured 465 others, and caused more than $800 million in property damage.
leaking gas pipe
A report by Nathan Phillips of Boston University sites 3,356 leaks  under the streets of Boston. Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post.

 

HJ3’s CarbonSeal Carbon fiber pipe repair is a favorable repair option for process pipeline repair. By fixing even a percentage of these leaks that are releasing the most gas, this will be a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and potential health and safety threats, not to mention, a decrease in our gas bills. According to 2012 data reported to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration by Washington Gas Light Co., they have approximately 1,200 miles of pipeline in D.C. of which 419 miles is cast iron, the leakiest of pipeline materials. There are also about 100 miles of unprotected steel pipe. Carbon fiber has the ability to reinforce the pipe and mitigate future corrosion and corrosion-related leaking. As an alternative to replacing the pipe, which can be very costly, carbon fiber pipe repairs are quick and easy installations that allow the pipe to continue operating for years to come.
natural gas pipeline external reinforcement
HJ3’s CarbonSeal repair system strengthened 7 sections of this natural gas pipeline, saving the client significantly compared to pipe replacement

 

Leaking gas pipelines are a significant issue for consumer budgets, safety, and the safety of the environment. HJ3’s carbon fiber repair systems are a cost effective solution. Not only have HJ3’s systems been tested and approved the American Society of Mechanical Engineers PCC-2 standards for high-pressure pipe, but they have been used on more than 10,000 structural strengthening applications worldwide. Natural gas companies could reduce their emissions in Massachusetts to 25 percent below 1990 levels by repairing about 777 miles of cast iron mains at a 60{f00316eaeff19fc4d3daa6454136ee4db9a0ad1868aa2a79e58a2db09827821d}-90{f00316eaeff19fc4d3daa6454136ee4db9a0ad1868aa2a79e58a2db09827821d} cost savings than replacing the pipes. Similar results could happen nation-wide. If you know of leaking gas pipelines that could be potential carbon fiber applications, please let us know.