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Classification of Methane Emissions from Industrial Meters, Vintage vs New Plastic Pipe, and Plastic-lined Steel and Cast Iron Pipe
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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. Developed field sampling standard operating procedure and have shared with DOE and partners
  2. Developed standardized digital data collection software to streamline data collections across field teams
  3. Identified industry partners to facilitate field sampling
  4. Assembled data available on industrial meters; new and vintage plastic pipe; and plastic-lined steel from several industry partners
  5. Completed 10 weeks of industrial meter sampling; visited over 500 meter sets (some contained multiple meters in all 6 regions nationally) while quantifying over 450 individual leaks
  6. Completed 10 weeks of underground pipeline measurements, examined leaks from new vs. vintage plastic pipes, and sampled 170+ leaks in 5 of 6 regions nationally
  7. Conducted one trip to measure emissions on plastic-lined steel and cast iron but when arrived on site there were no leaks to visit
  8. Completed 3 weeks of revisits of previously sampled companies who had provided industrial meters 
  9. Conducted 1 trip to survey for leaks on a total of 10,031 ft at 17 individual sites of steel and cast iron mains with cured-in-place-plastic liners and found no leaks
  10. Presented findings at the American Geophysical Union Fall Technical Meeting in December 2018
  11. Presented results at the American Gas Association Operations Conference in May 2019
  12. Submitted manuscript for publication in Environmental Science and Technology
  13. Submitted final report to DOE
Current Status

The project was completed June 30, 2019.

Project Start
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DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

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

Additional Information