Google Street View Cars Can Now Track Methane Leaks


Researchers will equip Google Street View cars with methane analyzers to spot methane leaks around cities

Google Street View cars have now received a new task, apart from taking snapshots of the surroundings. They will now be equipped with a special tool that allows them to detect the location and magnitude of harmful leaks of methane gas in the big cities of the United States.

The researchers from Colorado State University decided to give Google Street View cars a new role. They have placed cutting-edge methane analyzers on the vehicles. Thus, when they drive around the cities, the analyzers can spot natural gas leakage coming from the pipelines.

Why is it important to spot methane leaks?

Keeping track of the magnitude and location of gas leaks is quite a difficult task in big cities, as it is tough to monitor all pipelines in the urban distribution. However, it is very important to pay attention to leakages, as methane is dangerous for the environment. It is a greenhouse gas which quickly traps heat inside Earth’s atmosphere.

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Therefore, the researchers’ idea is an attempt to save the environment. If methane gas emissions are kept under control and reduced, we might slow down the process of climate change. Besides the damage they do to the environment, these leaks threaten the public safety and need to be fix immediately, to avoid a bigger damage.

Google and CSU researchers offer a helping hand

So far, keeping these leaks under control has been tough. People never knew how widespread these leaks were, and they needed to act as quickly as possible to get them fixed. This is where the researchers come in, trying to make it easier for the officials to deal with methane leakage.

“The faster you fix them, the bigger the environmental benefits are. But utilities and regulators didn’t have the data to focus their efforts. That’s where we come in. Our goal is to make it faster, cheaper and easier to find and measure methane leaks from natural gas lines to help accelerate crucial repairs.”

CSU researchers teamed up with Google Earth Outreach and equipped three of their cars with methane analyzers. These cars will be moving around some of the major cities in the U.S., including Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Burlington, or Los Angeles.

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These methane analyzers are extremely effective, as they identify gas leaks in real time. They require no further lab analysis, and send the data they collect to the researchers. Then, they can make it public and send teams to fix the leaks.

They have also published a study which can be consulted here.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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