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New high-tech vehicles can find natural gas leaks, lower emissions

The SUVs are being called “bloodhounds on wheels” for their gas-sniffing skills.
Consumers Energy has debuted its "bloodhound on wheels." The SUV can located natural gas leaks...
Consumers Energy has debuted its "bloodhound on wheels." The SUV can located natural gas leaks and lower emissions.(Consumers Energy)
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 1:09 PM EST
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JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) - Consumers Energy has unveiled two new vehicles aimed at helping to track down methane leaks to protect the planet and keep customers and communities safe.

The company is debuting two Ford Edge SUVs outfitted with precise state-of-the-art mobile natural gas leak detection systems from Silicon Valley-based Picarro Inc. The rolling labs can gather and immediately examine methane, wind, atmospheric, and GPS data to find natural gas leaks and calculate the associated risks.

The new vehicles will help prioritize leaks in natural gas pipes faster and more accurately while improving response to storms and natural disasters. The $4 million, five-year investment is part of a plan to achieve net-zero methane emissions by 2030.

The system on each vehicle includes:

  • A parts-per-billion sensitivity gas analyzer measuring the atmospheric gas composition and other tracers such as ethane.
  • An anemometer is mounted on a mast for detecting wind speed, direction, and wind variability.
  • Two antennas on the vehicle roof, one for the 4G wireless connectivity and one for sub-meter GPS vehicle positioning.
  • A 4G wireless router enables the internet connection and data transmission to and from the Picarro Cloud and Wi-Fi connection to the in-vehicle tablet.

The SUVs are being called “bloodhounds on wheels” for their gas-sniffing skills.

“This level of technology is going to revolutionize how we process and consume this data to make decisions,” said Grant Rivard, team lead for the project. “In a perfect world, I would love to have my colleagues to be dogs. Unfortunately, we’ll have to leave them at home for now and use Picarro in their place.”

Get details on the SUVs and their technology in the video below.

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