Is Your Natural Gas Leaking and Polluting the Air?

November 07, 2012

During spring 2012, Koolhof Earth performed energy audits on three residential houses located in the same community in suburban Baltimore, Maryland. Two of the houses were served by natural gas and the other was all electric. BOTH houses with natural gas had active natural gas leaks on the exterior of the buildings. This discovery begs the question – how many other undetected leaks are there in the Baltimore region? Just how much carbon dioxide (CO2) does each leak contribute on annual basis?

During the audit, Koolhof Earth measured the rate of each gas leak and used that information to calculate that each leak contributed more than 200 lbs of CO2 on an annual basis. We have no idea how many years the leak occurred before we discovered it. The reality is that we would likely not have discovered it without the VOC meter we use to screen for leaks as part of basic energy audit procedures.

If we found leaks at two out of two existing residences served by natural gas, how many potential leaks are there among the Baltimore region’s 650,000 natural gas customers? If only ten percent of the customers have similar leaks, that’s an incredible 13 million pounds of CO2 emitted per year and no one even benefited from the energy and warmth produced by the natural gas, as it never made it into the boiler or HVAC or kitchen appliance; it was just discharged to the atmosphere!

We know that these two homes are not the only ones with leaks. So, doesn’t it make sense that a routine screening for exterior leaks be performed on a regular basis, such as every time the gas meter is read?

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