I promised that I was working on a data visualization of natural gas pipeline breaches, and after crunching a bunch of numbers and messing with spreadsheets, well, here it is. It’s a bit scary, on any number of levels.
When a crude oil pipeline is ruptured, it’s bad news, particularly if the oil gets into water, where it’s likely to impact wildlife or drinking water supplies. But when a natural gas pipeline busts, it can be far worse because of the volatility of the fuel, which is made up mostly of methane. Leaked natural gas can’t be recovered, it can build up in enclosed spaces and explode, and it is a potent greenhouse gas, with at least 30 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over the long term.
Between January 2010 and November 2017, the nation’s natural gas transportation network leaked a total of 17.55 billion cubic feet of mostly methane gas. That’s enough to heat 233,000 homes for an entire year, and it’s got the same global warming potential as the carbon dioxide emitted from a large coal-fired power plant over the course of a year. Pipeline incidents took nearly 100 lives, injured close to 500 people and forced the evacuation of thousands during that time, while costing about $1.1 billion.
See the dataviz for more information. Scroll through the different maps, zoom in, and hover over bubbles for details on individual incidents. (Sorry, this particular Word Press site design doesn’t seem to jive with Tableau embeds, so you’ll have to follow the links to see it).
Data is from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Note: It does not include the massive Aliso Canyon methane leak of a couple years ago because natural gas storage sites are not under the PHMSA’s jurisdiction.