Posted on August 31, 2016

Leak Detection Fleet Reaches Major Milestone

By Melissa Subbotin

With more than 60,000 miles of distribution pipeline and services spread throughout its 70,000-square-mile service territory, PG&E has a lot of ground to cover as part of its safety efforts to survey gas service lines.

This month, the teams celebrated a major milestone, surveying their one millionth gas service line in just under two years.

This means PG&E has surveyed 1 million individual properties using Picarro technology, one of the most advanced methane detection technologies commercially available.

“I’m happy that we got there,” said Concord-based supervisor Matt Smith, who works with the drivers and a team of employees who analyze the data. “It’s a big success for our company and our team as a whole. Our results show that it’s making the entire system safer.”

Until 2014, when PG&E equipped a full fleet with Picarro leak detection technology, leak surveys were primarily conducted on foot. The addition of Picarro has improved the accuracy of PG&E’s leak surveys and has helped the company achieve a 99 percent reduction in minor leaks since 2010.

The Picarro leak detection technology includes a roof-mounted anemometer, which measures wind speed and collects air samples; combined with sensors and computer software inside the car that measures the amount of methane in the air.

Kaplan Smith is one of the employees who analyze data from the Picarro technology. (Photo by Teresa Jimenez.)

Today, with 10 Ford Explorers equipped with the very latest Picarro technology, PG&E’s leak survey blitz teams and Picarro teams are able to cover more of the service territory.

The 1 million mark was reached by the Picarro team while surveying the Santa Rosa area. PG&E’s leak management program combines state-of-the-art leak detection technology with a streamlined repair process to find and fix more leaks faster than ever before.

The milestone has been a team effort. With about six analysts and more than 40 trained Picarro drivers who surveyed nearly 60,000 miles, this milestone demonstrates the ongoing investments being made by PG&E to ensure the safe, reliable, affordable and clean delivery of natural gas to customers throughout its service territory.

“This milestone not only represents a big number, but it also marks an important new era where state-of-the-art technology significantly aids our efforts to keep customers safe,” said Jesus Soto, Gas Operations senior vice president.

Email Currents at Currents@pge.com

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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