Picarro Surveyor™ for Natural Gas: Rapid, Accurate Leak Detection for Improved Safety; PG&E - First Utility to Deploy Technology

Picarro Surveyor™ for Natural Gas: Rapid, Accurate Leak Detection for Improved Safety; PG&E - First Utility to Deploy Technology

P-Cubed™ Schematic
Nick Stavropoulos

In January, Picarro introduced a first-of-its-kind solution for natural gas pipeline leak detection and measurement, based on our new series of methane isotope analyzers. The new solution, called the Picarro Surveyor™ for Natural Gas Leaks, measures methane plumes in the air, maps them, and then immediately alerts users and repair teams upon leak detection in real-time while traveling at normal driving speeds. At an on-site demonstration hosted at Picarro on January 30, attended by federal, state and local elected officials and co-hosted by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Picarro also announced PG&E as the world’s first utility to embrace this solution for natural gas safety applications.

PG&E has committed to modernizing its gas pipeline system. Part of this modernization includes dramatically changing how it detects natural gas leaks. Since Picarro Surveyor can survey an area much more quickly than traditional gas detection devices, it is enabling PG&E to do more frequent, more accurate, and more cost-effective leak surveys across its entire gas distribution system. The greater rate of leak detection will allow PG&E to significantly improve safety, allowing them to identify and fix leaks at a greater rate than ever before.

Picarro Surveyor consists of a Picarro analyzer and related hardware that PG&E will install into its fleet of Chevy Volts. The software for Surveyor runs on the Picarro Processing Platform (P-Cubed™), our cloud-based service that uses patent-pending algorithms to analyze data that it wirelessly receives and stores during surveys. Because the Picarro analyzer is up to a thousand times more sensitive and faster than incumbent technologies typically used by utility technicians on foot patrol, Surveyor allows PG&E to survey for leaks at speeds previously impossible, while automatically mapping and displaying results in real-time in a web browser for faster, more accurate leak detection. The combined features of the Surveyor solution stands to significantly increase the frequency and accuracy of leak surveys for PG&E and other natural gas utilities.

“This gas detection technology is revolutionary,” said Nick Stavropoulos, executive vice president of gas operations for PG&E. “It’s going to change the way all gas companies across the world try to find and detect leaks. It is so much more precise, so much more real-time, in terms of the information it provides to us.”

The solution combines ultra-trace methane concentration measurements in air with high-resolution GPS location, a time stamp and wind speed and direction (natural gas is typically 95 percent methane). When the intuitive system suspects a natural gas leak, it automatically determines the stable isotope signature of the methane to confirm whether a methane source is natural gas and to rule out false positives from naturally occurring methane. Wind speed and direction are also analyzed and recorded to indicate the likely location of leaks. The raw spectroscopic data, plume location, isotopic signature, wind data and the survey route are seamlessly uploaded, stored, processed and mapped in the cloud-based P-Cubed platform. All data are simultaneously available in real-time to vehicle operators, supervisors, response teams or anyone granted secure web access. Users can choose to view their information on a tablet, desktop or even a mobile phone.

“We’re thrilled that PG&E is working swiftly to adopt our solution and proud that our technology will be used to help make communities safer,” said Michael Woelk, CEO of Picarro. “This solution stands to transform the energy industry’s leak detection programs by dramatically increasing the frequency of leak surveys and reducing false positives, while radically reducing the cost per survey. PG&E is clearly setting an example for other gas utilities around the world to follow.”


The new Picarro Processing Platform (P-CubedTM) is a cloud-based data processing and storage service that allows Picarro customers to interact with data in a graphics-rich environment. Customers can utilize both proprietary algorithms developed by Picarro and made available to our customers as well as processes created and defined by the customer, all running on P-Cubed. This unique service allows our customers to both create their own customized data transformation routines, through the P-Cubed application programming interface (API), as well as to graphically interface with the results of these transformations, via the P-Cubed website. This includes both processed and transformed data as well as stored and/or streamed raw data. The P-Cubed server enables Picarro Analyzers to send data (stream or batch) to be stored, and processed in a centralized location and enables end users to access the stored data and/or processed product from that centralized location. P-Cubed makes use of the well-defined HTTP infrastructure for data transit and communication and enables the deployment of processing services to make use of the data from one or many analyzers to provide a result product to one or more end users. The specific data collected, the specific processes and transformations performed on that data, and the user interface elements deployed to access the data and process product is defined by the requirements of the various P-Cubed processing services. P-Cubed is a cloud-based infrastructure designed to provide centralized storage, delivery, and processing of data generated primarily by Picarro analyzers. The primary delivery mechanism of information, services and data (processed data and/or raw data) from P-Cubed is the P-Cubed website.