Newsbrief Archive

Natural Gas Currents News - October 2015

Natural Gas Industry Explores New Technologies to Detect Leaks

Natural gas has many advantages. It’s clean, readily available, and generally less expensive than other fossil fuels. There is, however, the ever-present risk of pipeline leaks, which are very rare but have the potential for serious injuries and extensive property damage. As natural gas becomes the fuel of choice for more and more Americans, improvements in leak detection and reduction have become more critical. Fortunately, modern technology is developing some very sophisticated, and extremely effective, methods for detecting natural gas leaks.

Below are descriptions of new products and technologies that have the capability of proactively detecting gas leaks, and potential leaks, before they turn into major problems. Many of these innovations are currently being used on a limited basis and are expected to become industry standard in the near future.


The “smart-pig” is a small electronic device designed to travel inside a transmission pipeline without interrupting natural gas service. Its sensors can determine if there is any damage to the line, such as a dent or crack, and reports the exact location. The smart-pig travels at a speed of approximately 4 mph, using the gas flow to propel it through the pipeline.

Why is this device called a pig? It’s an acronym for Pipeline Inspection Gauge and it often makes a squealing sound as it travels through the line.


The miniature robot provides high-resolution images of a natural gas pipeline’s exterior surface, revealing possible signs of corrosion–without digging up the streets. In locations where underground pipelines run below railroad tracks or highways, the line is protected by a special casing. The mini-robot, about the size of a toy car, travels on magnetic wheels between the pipeline and protective casing, searching for abnormalities in the pipeline.

3D Mapping

This tool captures three-dimensional images of a pipeline’s outer surface, detecting dents, cracks or corrosion. It operates like a digital camera, providing precise, real-time information.

Methane Detection in the Air

This new high-tech device, about the size of a suitcase, is able to find elevated concentrations of methane in the air, thus revealing the site of a possible natural gas leak. It is mounted to a vehicle and integrated with cloud-based, geoinformatics software that determines the precise location of the methane.

In addition, sensors installed on the vehicle's roof capture wind speed and direction to provide additional information about gas traces. This system takes the place of utility workers searching for gas leaks on foot with hand-held detectors.

Watch for next month's Natural Gas Currents Newsbrief. And, for information regarding educational resources that address gas leak recognition and response, call us at 800-428-5837 FREE, email or visit