Under a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Google Earth Outreach that began in 2014, Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) was able to reduce methane emissions from targeted areas in its service territory by 83% and prioritize which aging distribution pipelines it should replace first.
PSE&G is New Jersey's largest regulated utility. It serves nearly three-quarters of the state's population, and the partnership with EDF and Google has accelerated its $905 million infrastructure replacement program. The partnership, which has been formed with other utilities in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, Boston, Indianapolis, and New York City, identifies and maps methane leaks from distribution networks.
PSE&G said it is interested in the technology and asked to collaborate. The company gave EDF information on the location and type of gas lines in target areas. A Google Street View car equipped with sensors that help detect leaks and create detailed maps spent six months gathering millions of readings over hundreds of miles of roadway in densely populated areas.
The team then used algorithms that were refined over several years to assess the data and rank it so PSE&G could replace pipeline faster. The utility was also able to reduce emissions at the same time it installed 35% fewer miles of pipeline. The company said that wouldn't have happened without the technology developed by EDF, Google and Colorado State University.
While the work helps to keep distribution systems safer, it's also aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is a leading greenhouse gas that has more warming power than carbon dioxide. Aging gas distribution systems, particularly those in the Northeast where the infrastructure is older, are a leading concern in the fight against emissions.
By 2018, PSE&G plans to replace up to 510 miles of aging cast-iron and bare steel lines under a program approved last year by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.