Natural Gas Midstream
Classification of Methane Emissions from Industrial Meters, Vintage vs New Plastic Pipe, and Plastic-lined Steel and Cast Iron Pipe Last Reviewed June 2017


Gas Technology Institute (GTI), with project partners AECOM, GHD Services, Inc., and Washington State University will improve the characterization of methane emissions from the natural gas distribution system. The project will focus on emissions from industrial meters in the natural gas distribution system, differences between vintage and new plastic pipelines, and gather data to compare steel and cast iron pipelines with and without plastic liners. The project team will conduct an unprecedented assembly of existing and new field data on methane leaks that will feed advanced statistical methods to offer a new perspective on methane emissions, the metrics/categories used to estimate emissions, and techniques used to curb those emissions.

Gas Technology Institute, Des Plaines, IL 60018

To meet the Nation’s Climate Action Plan goal of reducing emissions 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025 requires a comprehensive understanding of the emissions profile from the entire natural gas infrastructure to enable cost-effective and efficient identification and control of methane emissions. This project will contribute to one piece of the research needed to provide input into a cohesive strategy for greenhouse gas reduction. The EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) estimates are used to drive environmental policy and regulations at the federal level, which directly impacts individual natural gas customers, rate payers. By reducing uncertainty and improving the characterization of methane emissions from the gas industry, appropriate regulations will be made, the cost of compliance will be reduced, and the savings will be passed on to the rate payers.

The research will have a significant impact on the national estimates of methane emissions from the natural gas industry. It is intended that the improved Emissions Factors and activity data will be incorporated into EPA’s annual GHGI. The proposed project will also identify specific metrics to be tracked at a company level so operators can prioritize the repair of their non-hazardous leaks to maximize the reduction of methane emissions. Studies have shown fat-tailed emissions can be responsible for up to 50% of total emissions. By identifying these leaks, operators can more efficiently reduce the environmental impacts of their system. The results from the study will also improve the activity data estimates for specific sources such as industrial meters and distribution pipelines. This can help individual companies develop targeted leak repair programs for non-hazardous leaks to optimize emissions reductions. Specifically, the data collected on emissions from cast iron and unprotected steel with plastic liners will help determine if this is an effective practice for reducing leaks. It could then be made into practice in the field and possibly support the creation of a different classification for this type of pipeline to promote the use of these liners as a method of reducing emissions. A reduction in leaks also improves safety for customers and the public.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

  1. The project was awarded on October 1, 2016, and all sub-contracts are in place.
  2. Developed field sampling standard operating procedure and have shared with DOE and partners.
  3. Developed standardized digital data collection software to streamline data collections across field teams.
  4. Identified industry partners to facilitate field sampling.
  5. Assembled data available on industrial meters; new and vintage plastic pipe; and plastic-lined steel from several industry partners.

Current Status (June 2017)
Technical Advisory Panel members for the project have been contacted and GTI is waiting for the first two weeks of field measurements to be completed before holding a meeting. This way, the panel will be able to give input on data that is collected and assist with any issues that were encountered during sampling. GTI has developed all required field sampling procedures and is actively working with industry partners to set up field sampling so that samples are taken as randomly as possible, while also sampling from an appropriate percentage breakdown of the population. This is especially crucial for industrial meters that can fall into five different categories of meter, each with different potentials to leak. The first field measurements of industrial meters are scheduled for mid July 2017 and pipeline measurements are scheduled to begin in August 2017. Ongoing efforts also include collection of additional data from other industry partners and determining sampling locations in other regions.

Project Start: October 1, 2016
Project End: March 31, 2019

DOE Contribution: $1,090,719
Performer Contribution: $272,727

Contact Information
NETL – Gary Covatch ( or 304-285-4589)
Gas Technology Institute – Christopher Moore ( or 847-768-0688)

Additional Information: