Friday, December 9, 2016

Gas Pipeline Leaked for Over 1 Year in a NY State Forest

The gas leak shown in the video.
On Nov. 30, Ryan Weatherley and Tim Ross, both of Olean, NY, were hunting in a NY State Forest near Franklinville  where they came across an unusual site. A large quantity of water was rising up above the surface of a puddle. It resembled the beginnings of a geyser eruption (see photo).

Nearby was a marker in the ground indicating that this was the location of a National Fuel Gas pipeline, suggesting that this was a gas leak. Weatherley spotted a total of 4 leaks in the area and recorded a closeup video of one of them.

See a 10 second video clip showing a closeup of the leak in the photo with sound: click here to open in YouTube.

View the full video (2 minutes): click here

Weatherley called National Fuel Gas who said they would handle it and that he should leave the area, according to a statement posted online with his video. He went back to his car with his friend and the company called back. They verified that there was a gas leak and that they wouldn't be able to do anything until after Christmas.

Contacted by the Olean Times Herald, Karen L. Merkel, National Fuel corporate communications director, said on Friday, Dec. 2, that the company has been aware of the leak for some time.

When it was discovered, it was determined to be “a Type 3 leak that did not require an urgent fix based on its location” in a rural area, Merkel said.

“We knew about the leak long before we saw it on YouTube,” Merkel said.

Late Friday afternoon, Merkel said crews had measured the extent of the leak, which had not changed in over a year.

However, Merkel said, “because of the volume of calls received about this leak in light of the Facebook and YouTube videos, we are in the process of repairing it so our system isn't inundated with leak calls that does not involve an inherent safety risk.”

To read the full report at Olean Times Herald, click here.

See also: Gas leak has now been repaired, click here.

Editorial Comments:
National Fuel knew that this pipeline was leaking for over 1 year and did nothing to stop it until it was spotted by citizens and posted on YouTube. Surprising, and at the same time, troubling.

This was not a small leak. Those were not simply gas bubbles in the photo and video. A sizeable mass of water was constantly being lifted above the surface of the surrounding puddle. It would take substantial amount of gas to do that and to constantly maintain it.

It's difficult to accept that this was not a safety hazard. What would happen if someone tossed a lighted cigarette butt in the vicinity of that leak? Explosion? Forest fire?

Safety aside, natural gas is primarily methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. National Fuel said that the extent of the leak "had not changed in over a year."

How many Type 3 leaks like this exist for a year or more in all of the gas pipelines in NY State? What is the total contribution of all such leaks to greenhouse gas emissions in the State? We need to know this information to accurately assess the full contribution of natural gas operations to global warming.

Gas pipeline (blue line) in Boyce Hill State Forest near Franklinville, NY

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