Session 3: Methane Leaks Field Trip "Safari"


Objective: Hands-on field activity collecting data on real-word methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure in Cambridge and Somerville MA. Familiarize two sets of 5–8 participants with the tools and methods.

Session structure: Split participants into two groups. Each group has a 90 minute excursion in a 12-passenger van equipped with a Picarro gas leak monitor, GPS linked, connected to a laptop for real-time display of methane concentration as it drives. Outline for each group trip:

  • Brief (5 minute) introduction to the equipment and methods.
  • Drive along routes known to have methane leaks, discuss what’s observed as we go.
  • At select locations of interest (e.g. larger methane concentrations), stop the van. Everyone gets out to take a closer look. Where is the likely leak source? Use handheld methane probe for more precise measurement. Discuss clues about natural gas infrastructure repairs (e.g. spray paint tags, manhole covers, pavement patches) and presence of leaks (e.g. tree damage).

Instructors: Nathan Phillips (Boston University), Audrey Schulman (HEET)

Safari Results

This video shows some highlights of one group’s leak safari.

Data collected:

News article about the leak safari session: Takemura, Alison. “Climate Science Takes to the Streets,” MIT News, February 28, 2017.

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