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14 Dec 2012: Car-Mounted Sensor Able to
Pinpoint Sources of Natural Gas Leaks

A U.S.-based company has developed a sophisticated sensing technology capable of detecting and pinpointing the source of even minor natural gas leaks from great distances, an innovation that could provide critical insights into the still largely unknown climate impacts of natural gas drilling. Using a car-mounted system — which combines an advanced methane detector, wind-direction sensors, isotope detectors, and specially developed algorithms — technicians from California-based Picarro are able to collect data on concentrations of methane, a major component of natural gas, at regular driving speeds. The so-called Picarro Surveyor technology logs the data and, in real time, plots the source of natural gas leaks using Google Maps. In a recent survey, the system identified more than 3,350 specific locations in Boston where methane levels were 15 times higher than normal, according to MIT’s Technology Review. As natural gas drilling rapidly expands globally, driven by hydraulic fracturing technology, sophisticated methane detectors could provide important data on just how that drilling could contribute to climate change.

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