Environmental challenge(s) met
United States, Colorado
Outline of project:
There are 1.3 million miles of natural gas distribution pipelines in the U.S. As a requirement by law, utility companies have to repair any leaks that are deemed a safety threat to the public. However thousands of minor leaks will slip through the radar and continue to keep on leaking for months.In order to tackle this problem, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) worked with Colorado State University, to develop technology that could detect and measure methane concentrations from a moving vehicle. To rise to the scale of the challenge the team decided to approach Google; who already had the infrastructure available to make scaling-up their technology a reality by converting Google's Street View fleet into a mobile environmental sensing platform.
Googles vehicles, equipped with high-precision GPS, were already driving around pretty much everywhere, capturing 360-degree photos for Google Maps. Equipped with the new air quality sensors, Street View cars make on average at least 2 trips around a given area in order to capture good air quality data. An intake tube on the front bumper collects air samples, which are then processed by a methane analyser in the trunk. Finally, the data is sent to the Google Cloud for analysis and integration into a map showing the size and location of methane leaks. These methane maps are helping utilities allocate resources more efficiently toward repairs and long-term improvements.
What stage is the project at?