Climate change: Technology of Bay Area companies, including PG&E, evolves to tackle greenhouse gases


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – When we first introduced PG&E’s mobile gas leak detection system five years ago, the focus was largely on safety, with mobile laboratories equipped with a methane detection technology roaming the streets of the Bay Area, identifying potentially dangerous leaks.

But flash forward, and technology has also become an important tool in the fight against climate change.

“So the technology is now able to estimate the size of the leaks detected by the car. And so we use it to use a car in our territory. It therefore covers the entire territory of PG&E in one year, ”says François Rongere, head of research and development for the gas division of PG&E.

He points to Washington State University‘s findings that 2% of leaks are responsible for more than half of the methane released by the nation’s gas distribution system.

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“And this is called the concept of the super transmitter,” says Rongere.

And finding and fixing those super emitter leaks has propelled another Bay Area-based company into the climate spotlight. Alex Balkanski is CEO of Picarro, based in Santa Clara.

In 2016, he showed us a miniaturized version of the technology that PG&E and other major industries are using, capable of measuring greenhouse gases like methane down to parts per billion.

RELATED: PG&E Tests AI Cameras to Detect Wildfires in Northern California

And, following the Glasgow climate summit, he believes the company is providing essential tools to track international emissions targets.

“Everyone from China to the European community to North America. We are getting big government contracts to help them solve this extremely important problem of geolocation, of finding where they find the needle in the haystack, ”says Balkansky.

And provide a critical layer for a rapidly growing network of international surveillance programs, including airborne methane detection flights launched by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and the State of California with a space version in the works. .

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“You have to look at it globally. So you need several technologies to tackle this huge problem,” says Balkanki.

A challenge, now attacked from the air, from space and from the ground, with innovative technology developed in California and here in the Bay Area. PG&E supported the NASA / JPL imagery project and also developed its own detection drones in cooperation with UC Merced.

PG & E’s mobile gas leak detection system has also become an important tool in the fight against climate change.

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