Commission Grantee Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL)

JPL Uses NASA Technology to Locate Methane Release from Space


JPL, a research facility of NASA operated by CalTech, has been working with the California Seismic Safety Commission to identify NASA technologies that can be used to increase monitoring, safety, and recovery from earthquakes. After an earthquake there is a high risk of fire. The most damage that occurred in San Francisco in 1906 was due to the fire, not the shaking (and many residents still refer to it as the great fire of 1906). Today the risk of rupture of major natural gas distribution lines and pipelines during an earthquake is of great concern. Early detection of gas releases from sources underneath the ground is difficult on a wide scale. But JPL has used the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) to identify gas releases from space. The leaks can then be confirmed by aircraft-flown sensors for more precise identification.  Early detection of gas leaks will reduce the number of post-earthquake ignitions.

Quickly identifying a gas leak from space can help ground personnel know where to close off pipelines, or if need be, evacuate people before a major fire or explosion following an earthquake.