PG&E said today (Oct. 4) that it will increase the number of high-tech, mobile leak-detection vehicles in its fleet based on the success of two demonstration units tested earlier this year.
The deal between PG&E and Picarro Inc. will further advance the safety of the utility’s natural gas pipelines. PG&E will deploy a total of six Picarro SurveyorTM devices for vehicle-mounted, super-sensitive gas leak detection throughout its Northern and Central California service area over the next three years.
The Picarro devices are approximately 1,000 times more sensitive than traditional leak detection equipment. They are capable of detecting leaks down to one part per billion in ambient air while reducing false positives from naturally occurring sources of methane.
“We deployed the Picarro Surveyor prototypes nine months ago, and they’ve proven to be so powerful that we are committing to rolling out this innovative technology across our service area,” said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s executive vice president of gas operations. “And because the Picarro Surveyor will allow us to conduct more frequent and comprehensive surveys, we expect to support the deployment with the hiring of more leak detection and remediation professionals.”
Mounted on PG&E vehicles, the Picarro Surveyor measures and maps methane plumes in the air as the vehicle drives through neighborhoods. That’s a dramatic improvement — in terms of time and efficiency — over the hand-held, less-sensitive instruments used in walking surveys. The easy-to-use analyzer and the associated computer alert users and repair teams immediately upon leak detection.
PG&E initially ordered two devices in early 2012 and studied their capabilities by mounting them on electric vehicles. Picarro and PG&E have now signed a three-year managed services contract for six units.
“Picarro Surveyor is a groundbreaking technology that finds natural gas leaks that incumbent devices simply can’t detect and at great speed,” said Michael Woelk, CEO of Picarro. “PG&E is clearly serving as a leadership model for other utilities by proving once again they’re committed to having the safest distribution system in North America.”
Woelk added that his company expects the Picarro Surveyor to become the de facto leak detection platform for America’s natural gas industry as other utilities recognize that the effectiveness of the technology.
In January, Stavropoulos and Woelk announced the initial partnership between the two companies at Picarro’s Santa Clara headquarters. Picarro is one of an array of new tools being used in PG&E’s gas operations department as it continues to make progress in improving the safety of its system. This week, for instance, the first in a series of new gas crew work trucks that will mean improved working conditions, efficiency and safety, was delivered to PG&E.
“We’re making every effort to ensure that PG&E is the safest utility in the United States, and Picarro’s technology is a cornerstone to making that happen,” Stavropoulos said.