Smell gas, leave fast. Instructing customers to quickly leave their premises if they suspect a gas leak is an important message Ameren Illinois shares on a consistent basis with its 812,000 natural gas service customers in central and southern Illinois.
“Natural gas is a safe and reliable source of energy, but it can be dangerous if people are not vigilant in reporting a suspected leak,” said Gussie Reed, director, Division V, Ameren Illinois. “We always urge our customers to play it safe and alert us immediately if they suspect a problem.”
Determining the location of an underground leak outside a customer’s home or business can be a challenge for Ameren Illinois gas crews. While the company can quickly locate and detect a leak on the actual gas line, it’s often more difficult to isolate residual gas that may have escaped under pavement or structures.
David DeLuca, supervisor, Gas Operations, Hillsboro Operating Center, said Ameren Illinois is deploying the latest technology – a vapor extraction unit – to pinpoint underground gas leaks. The unit uses a vacuum-based technology along with 18 probes and hoses to extract the gas. It can be used in a compact or broad area by varying the number of probes and hoses. The prior method used a siphoning process with only one probe in the ground.
Ameren Illinois is typically alerted to a gas leak when a homeowner, the police or public reports a natural gas odor in the air. If a leak is discovered subsurface and determined to be potentially hazardous, it must be addressed immediately. Ameren Illinois gas crews typically arrive on-site within 23 minutes of receiving the call.
“With the old method, we’d have two or three trucks on site with gas co-workers working 24 hours. Now they can remove the gas in a quarter of the time in most cases,” DeLuca said. “It is a very efficient tool and increased productivity means pinpointing and addressing the leak more quickly.”
Ameren Illinois devotes significant resources to warn customers about the dangers of natural gas leaks and delivers gas safety briefings to first-responders, contractors, and excavators throughout the year. The built-in safety features of the vapor extraction unit were a key consideration in purchasing the technology.
“If the gas is being removed at too high of concentrations, the unit will automatically shut itself off,” DeLuca said. “By extracting the gas away from the foundation of a home or business or under a driveway, we are improving our ability to make the situation safe for our customers and our crews.”
Ameren Illinois currently has two of the units; one is located in Alton and one in Springfield.
About Ameren Illinois
Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 812,000 natural gas customers in Illinois. Our mission is to power the quality of life. Our service territory covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. For more information, visit AmerenIllinois.com, find us on Twitter @AmerenIllinois or Facebook.
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