Let me introduce you to a natural gas sniffer truck. If you’re wondering what the strange looking doodads are hanging from the front of this truck, you’re not alone. When TECO Peoples Gas technicians drive this truck down the street, believe me, they get lots of stares and questions.
Natural gas safety is a priority
Safety is our number one priority and checking our gas mains for leaks is an ongoing part of keeping our system safe. All mains are checked on a regularly scheduled basis, street by street or wherever the pipes are run. A natural gas sniffer truck plays an important role in the process.
Detecting natural gas leaks is based on the simple fact that natural gas is lighter than air. Leaking gas will vent upward through the soil and any cracks in concrete and asphalt. The sniffer truck is equipped with special flame ionization (FI) equipment used to measure any gas that may be escaping into the air.
How a natural gas sniffer truck works
Here’s how the equipment on the natural gas sniffer truck works. Technicians drive at a speed of about five miles per hour, positioning the truck as close to directly over the main as possible. A vacuum pump pulls air in through flexible rubber cones (the doodads) attached to the front of the truck’s fender. The cones ride just above the ground, and air is pulled through them at the rate of two liters per minute. The FI equipment installed on the truck alerts the technician if any gas is detected.
In addition, Peoples Gas technicians also use hand-held instruments to survey for natural gas leaks as part of its regularly scheduled safety and maintenance checks.