U.S. cities that regularly replace their natural gas lines have fewer occurrences of gas leaks, according to a new study conducted by Google and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
According to a July 16 Herald Bulletin article, the study found that cities like Indianapolis, where old gas lines are regularly replaced, see fewer leaks than places where they aren’t, like Staten Island in New York City and Boston, where there is approximately one leak per mile.
To conduct the study, gas-detecting devices were affixed to Google’s mapping vehicles, which then drove around the major U.S. cities that were surveyed. The EDF then used statistical calculations to determine the amount of methane present in these cities’ streets, the Herald Bulletin reports.
Google Maps is typically used by individuals to get directions and find locations — however, in this case, Google’s mapping technology was able to detect the amount of natural gas leaking from city pipes.
Methane, the main component of natural gas, is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, trapping 84 times as much heat than carbon dioxide, according to the Herald Bulletin. In addition to concerning environmentalists, many companies wish to reduce the number of natural gas leaks as a means of saving money.
An earlier study’s findings were concurrent with Google and the EDF’s study, with Boston, parts of New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore being the slowest at replacing their gas lines. Meanwhile, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Alabama, and Chicago were more likely to replace old gas lines quickly, the Herald Bulletin reports.