EDF: locating methane leaks beneath our city streets

About EDF

For decades, the Environmental Defense Fund has been committed to bipartisan environmentalism. The results are incontestable: Every major environmental law from the early 1970s to 2016 has passed with the support of both Democrats and Republicans. The EDF is one of the world's largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of 700 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world.

Industries: Non-profit
Location: United States

About 25 percent of the global warming we face right now is due to methane. It can be released from biological sources like landfills and cow pastures, but can also come from leaky pipes underneath city streets, delivering the natural gas that heats our homes and provides cooking fuel. It's an extremely powerful greenhouse gas: 84 times as impactful as carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. The Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) goal was to identify and reduce those gas leaks to help slow climate change.

Google Maps Platform Results

  • By making information about methane leaks transparent, EDF is providing a unique way for utilities, regulators and the public to work together and invest in infrastructure improvements and repairs
  • Capturing and visualizing data in a way that can be easily understood by all stakeholders and partners
  • 10 US cities researched, identifying 4,000+ with Street View cars

100% methane data transparency across cities

"We chose to use Google Maps Platform because they have the design features and flexibility we needed to visualize the data in a way that can be easily understood... With layered mapping, we've shown that there's an average of one leak per mile (in Boston) to one leak every 200 miles (in Indianapolis), demonstrating the effectiveness of techniques like using plastic piping instead of steel for pipeline construction. We hope utilities can use this data to prioritize the replacement of gas mains and service lines."

Cassie Ely, Manager in the Office of Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) works to solve the world's biggest environmental problems, including helping to combat climate change by locating methane leaks underneath city streets with Google Maps. The EDF joined forces with Google Earth Outreach to put methane analyzers on Google Street View cars. While the cars drive to capture 360-degree Street View imagery, the analyzers measure the concentration of the methane gas in the air. The team also worked with a scientist and professor at Colorado State University to analyze the spikes in methane levels and detect leaks in the underground pipes. EDF chose Google Maps Platform because they have the design features and flexibility they needed to visualize the data in a way that can be easily understood. Google Maps Platform allows the team to map the roads where Street View cars drive and the locations where the analyzers detected methane leaks.

About EDF

For decades, the Environmental Defense Fund has been committed to bipartisan environmentalism. The results are incontestable: Every major environmental law from the early 1970s to 2016 has passed with the support of both Democrats and Republicans. The EDF is one of the world's largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of 700 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world.

Industries: Non-profit
Location: United States