Posted on March 15, 2017

Marin County: PG&E Gas Leak-Sensing Fleet Sweeps Area to Enhance Customer Safety

By Deanna Contreras

Novato residents may notice an increased presence of PG&E crews working in their neighborhoods this week as the utility continues its mission of becoming the safest and most reliable natural gas provider in the country.

Leak survey teams are able to cover more of PG&E's service area than ever before.

As part of a four-year leak survey and maintenance program, PG&E crews are combining the use of state-of-the-art leak detection technology with a streamlined repair process to find and fix leaks faster than ever before.

Crews will be surveying gas line services which provide natural gas to individual homes and businesses as well as gas distribution pipeline in Novato through today (March 15) and then foot surveyors will canvass the area through Friday (March 17).

Using the Picarro vehicle-mounted leak-detection technology, which is 1,000 times more sensitive than most commercially available tools, PG&E is able to identify natural gas leaks with enhanced precision and speed, and immediately schedule repairs or appropriate corrective actions. In 2017, PG&E plans to survey more than 31,000 miles of distribution line, more than it has ever surveyed in a single year.

“Our leak-sensing fleet can pick up even the slightest trace of a natural gas leak, ensuring a quick fix that prevents further damage and ultimately keeps our customers safe year-round,” said Dave Canny, senior Manager of PG&E’s North Bay & Sonoma Divisions.  “This is just an additional layer of protection out of all our gas safety efforts across our service territory in order to deliver safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to customers in Marin County.”

The leak detection technology includes a Ford Explorer with PG&E logos mounted with anemometers on the roof to measure wind speed, combined with sensors and computer software inside the car that measures the amount of methane in the air. The vehicle surveys make passes through designated neighborhoods.

Residents can expect to see the Picarro vehicle from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. The vehicle surveys are conducted in early morning hours because atmospheric conditions are most favorable at that time, allowing the analyzer to make more precise readings.

If a leak is detected that requires immediate repair, a work crew will respond to the site. During repair work, customers may see PG&E trucks and other equipment in their neighborhoods while construction takes place on the natural gas lines.

As part of PG&E’s commitment to safety, the company has also:

  • Decommissioned all of the company’s 800 miles of cast-iron pipe in its system, replacing it with stronger, more resilient and seismically sound pipe
  • Opened a new gas operations control center in 2013, which employs the most advanced technology available, providing unprecedented visibility into the natural gas system and enabling a more predicative and rapid response in an emergency
  • Established itself as one of the fastest in the entire industry responding to gas odor calls — averaging 20 minutes

This important gas system maintenance program is scheduled to continue throughout communities across PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area.

As part of PG&E’s maintenance work, there may also be a controlled and safe release of a small amount of natural gas while the service line is emptied for replacement. Customers may hear a loud, steady noise and notice the smell of gas. While gas odors are likely from this work, PG&E encourages anyone with concerns to call 1-800-743-5000.

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