Students Measure Methane Leaks From Pipelines In Bryan/College Station

Nov 9, 2016

Fifteen students in the College of Geosciences participated in projects on atmospheric methane, the second most important emitted greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

The project was part of GEOS 405, a capstone course for Environmental Programs.

“The class split, self-selected, into three groups with four students, and one with three students. The larger three groups made measurements using a gas chromatograph in my laboratory: one group measured methane atop the currently active old municipal waste dump on Hwy 30, one group measured methane around local oil and gas well sites, and the third measured methane uptake on soils in Lick Creek park,” said Dr. Gunnar W. Schade, who teaches the course.

One group of students analyzed possible leaks for three neighborhoods in the Bryan/College Station area. Through mobile measurements using a high precision methane analyzer, the students were able to gather data for the three different locations. Each area was evaluated three times, and the neighborhoods were chosen based on age and land use. Any methane spikes exceeding 2.5 ppm were classified as leaks.

According to their study, the age of a pipeline was a significant factor in determining current and future leaks.

They discovered the largest methane leaks around the oldest neighborhood, and the Texas A&M natural gas plant. Fewer leaks were found in the neighborhood that was slightly newer. No leaks were found in the youngest neighborhood, which was less than 20 years old. Overall, the group discovered one leak per mile of urban road. 

Dr. Schade was pleased with the results and considered all of the projects a success.

“I also took a subset of students to Dallas for a legislative hearing on EPA methane regulations, so they got to see what was said and how such public hearings work,” he added.

Go here to read more on this project.