PG&E And Picarro Demonstrate Super-Sensitive Gas Leak Detector PG&E Tests New High-Tech, Car-Mounted Gas Detection Technology as Pipeline Safety Enhancement Measure
Release Date: January 30, 2012
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Testing ways that new technology can make natural gas pipelines
safer, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Picarro today demonstrated a car-mounted
gas leak detection device that is much more sensitive than traditional instruments.
"The Picarro device is a powerful tool we are studying, and we are excited to be the first
natural gas operator in the world to use it," said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice
president of gas operations. "The fact that Picarro is known around the world for producing new
generation gas analyzers and yet it is based right here in our service area— employing people
who live and work alongside PG&E employees—makes this an exciting relationship."
Congressman Michael M. Honda, 15th Congressional District attended today's
demonstration in Santa Clara.
"I am excited about Santa Clara based Picarro's new partnership with PG&E," said
Honda. "Picarro's innovative technology will allow the detection of natural gas leaks more
quickly and more frequently. This simple to use approach enables the detection of gas leaks by
driving a vehicle equipped with the technology down the street. It employs world leading
methane sensitivity to differentiate between gas leaks and methane from other sources to
eliminate false negatives, coupled with smart software to eliminate false positives. This game
changing approach, invented and built right here in Silicon Valley, will enable the identification
and repair of gas leaks to help prevent any future disaster, which will protect the health and
safety of my constituents."
The analyzer, made by Santa Clara-based Picarro, is designed to pick up trace amounts of
natural gas in the atmosphere in real time. It is more sensitive than traditional gas detection
devices, while at the same time able to scan an area much more quickly.
"We're excited to collaborate with PG&E and serve as the measurement and analytics
platform for a new natural gas safety solution," said Mike Woelk, CEO of Picarro. "The
mobility, durability and accuracy of Picarro Surveyor™, combined with our cloud based
analytics will help improve leak detection for natural gas utilities around the country,
significantly increasing customer safety and reducing monitoring and maintenance costs. As the
first utility in the world to adopt this type of solution, PG&E should be applauded for taking such
an innovative and proactive step to providing its millions of California customers with a better,
safer customer experience."
Traditional leak detection devices locate hydrocarbons, which could range from a natural
gas leak to decaying vegetation. Picarro's analyzers are sensitive to natural gas leaks using new
technology that blocks all other gases.
PG&E sees the analyzer as an enhancement to its portfolio of solutions for detecting gas
leaks along its vast network of transmission and distribution pipelines. The utility has initially
ordered two devices and mounted them on electric vehicles to study the technology's
capabilities. The car-mounted technology will move slowly through neighborhoods and alert
nearby crews if it detects a gas leak.
"Because much of this leak survey work will be done at slower speeds, we wanted an
environmentally friendly vehicle, with good gas mileage and less exhaust," said Stavropoulos.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is
one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San
Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to
15 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit
For B-roll of the car mounted leak detection technology in action, please click on the