Methane Emissions Map FAQ

What should I do if I smell natural gas?

If you smell a natural gas odor, hear the sound of gas escaping or see other signs of a leak: REMAIN calm. DON'T smoke or light a match, candle or other flame. DON'T turn electrical appliances or lights on or off, operate machinery or use any device that could cause a spark. IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE the area, and from a safe location, call SoCalGas at 1-800-427-2200; or call 911 if the damage results in a natural gas leak that may endanger life or cause bodily harm or property damage.

COVID-19 may cause a temporary loss of smell that could make it more difficult to detect the odorant that is added to natural gas to help make leaks easier to detect. 

What information does the map show?

The map shows the general locations of methane emissions from both SoCalGas' system and from other sources that are scheduled for repair or are being monitored to verify the safety until a repair is scheduled. Non-SoCalGas sources of emissions include those from petroleum pipelines and other facilities, as well as naturally occurring methane, such as field gas.

The SoCalGas-sourced emissions shown on the map indicate two types of non-hazardous sites. Methane emissions at these sites have been detected through SoCalGas' pipeline inspection programs or have been reported by the public and then confirmed by SoCalGas' trained technicians. They do not represent hazards in the area. Any site of emissions determined to be hazardous is immediately made safe and repaired if a leak is found to be the source of the emissions. As such, these hazards do not exist long enough to be plotted on the map. The two types of non-hazardous sites of emissions are:

Scheduled for Repair: Technicians have inspected this site and determined it to be non-hazardous, but in need of repair or replacement. While planning, permitting and other activities are underway, the site will be inspected as frequently as necessary to verify that it remains safe.

Monitoring: Technicians have determined this site to be non-hazardous and it is not yet scheduled for repair, rather it will be monitored to verify the conditions at the site do not change.

What if the map identifies a methane indication near my house or business?

You should not be alarmed by any indications on this map as the sites have already been inspected and determined to be non-hazardous. Any hazardous situation is immediately addressed and the area is continuously worked until it is determined to be safe. Some of the underground methane emissions indicated on the map are not from SoCalGas pipelines. Nevertheless, all the sites on the map have been inspected by SoCalGas technicians trained to evaluate detections of methane emissions according to federal regulations. For emissions that are not from SoCalGas pipelines, appropriate authorities and other parties are notified of our findings. For methane emissions from the SoCalGas system, the location is either scheduled for repair placed on to a monitoring program to verify that it stays safe until a repair is scheduledIf you suspect a new gas leak, please follow the instructions above "What Should I do if I smell natural gas?"

IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE the area, and from a safe location, call SoCalGas at 1-800-427-2200; or call 911 if the damage results in a natural gas leak that may endanger life or cause bodily harm or property damage.

What is the difference between scheduled for repair and monitoring?

Both are sites of methane emissions that our trained technicians have inspected and found to be non-hazardous. The main difference is whether our technicians determined the site should be repaired by a specified date or may be monitored prior to determining a repair date. A site labeled "scheduled for repair" may have additional inspections to verify the location is non-hazardous prior to the completion of the repair. Factors impacting the repair schedule include work plan development, property owner notification, securing of permits, and are typically completed within 6 months. A site labeled "monitoring" is one in which our technicians have determined the site can continue to monitored and is not prioritized for a scheduled repair.

I thought natural gas leaks were dangerous. How can a natural gas leak be safe? Who decides?*

Natural gas is used safely day in and day out by our customers to cook food, heat water and heat their homes. The pipeline system delivering natural gas to customers is periodically surveyed by qualified SoCalGas personnel with highly sensitive equipment to verify the system's integrity and identify methane emissions. In accordance with Federal and State regulations, SoCalGas evaluates each methane emission to determine if it poses a hazard.

SoCalGas technicians are trained to evaluate methane emissions. They conduct a "four-point" examination, evaluating the site in relation to its proximity to people and property, the concentration of gas present in the area at the time of inspection, the potential for gas to accumulate in the surrounding area and the presence of an ignition source. The natural gas supplied by SoCalGas will not burn unless the mix of methane in the air reaches certain levels – between 4.5 percent (lower limit) and 15 percent (upper limit).

All odors or other indications of natural gas or methane emissions you detect should be considered dangerous until a SoCalGas technician has evaluated it.

Are the pipelines operating safely?

SoCalGas designs, constructs, maintains and operates its system in accordance with safety regulations. SoCalGas immediately takes action should a hazardous situation be found until it is safe.

What is the environmental impact of methane emissions?

Using natural gas instead of other fossil fuels, such as coal, gasoline and diesel, is better for the environment because it burns cleaner than they do. However, uncombusted methane, the main component of natural gas, is detrimental to the environment from a global warming perspective. Uncombusted methane from any source, including landfills, farms, sewage, decaying plants, and even the La Brea Tar Pits, is harmful as it is very effective at trapping heat and warming the atmosphere.

SoCalGas has worked hard over the years to reduce emissions from its system. SoCalGas' natural gas distribution system has one of the lowest methane emission rates in the country. Estimates of the emission rate range from 0.05 percent based on extensive internal studies to 0.12 percent of natural gas delivered in 2011 based on data from a Washington State University study published by a highly respected scientific journal in March 2015.

SoCalGas is also leading the industry in exploring new technology to capture methane from landfills, farms and sewers to safely utilize and meet customer's needs.

Why are there so many methane emissions sites on the map?

The number of non-hazardous sites you see on the map should be considered with the following factors in mind:

  • The newer and more sophisticated detection equipment we have deployed is finding a greater number of lower levels of methane emissions.
  • Because there are many natural and man-made sources of methane, it is unlikely all of these indications actually represent pipeline leaks.
  • The emission rate of the distribution system is one of the lowest in the country with estimates ranging from 0.05 percent to 0.12 percent of all natural gas delivered in 2011.

What causes the methane emissions from the pipe?

Historically, third-party damage to pipelines caused by contractors, business owners or residents digging at construction sites or in their yards is the leading cause of distribution pipeline leaks. This is why SoCalGas spends so much time and effort in generating awareness around the "Call 811 Before You Dig" program. Natural gas safety is a shared responsibility.

Other causes include corrosion and the failure of welds, which is why we have eliminated all cast iron pipe and began replacing unprotected steel pipe that is susceptible to rust with more resilient plastic pipe. The distribution pipeline system is now 50 percent plastic.

How old are the natural gas pipes?

SoCalGas has programs that continually verify the integrity of its system. Age alone is not a good predictor of the integrity of a pipeline. Pipe material, corrosion control measures, and other factors are better indicators. SoCalGas has completed programs to remove copper and cast iron pipe from its system. As a result, the pipeline system is a relatively modern system compared to other large, natural gas distribution systems across the U.S.

What are you doing to keep the natural gas infrastructure safe?

SoCalGas operates and maintains its pipelines in a manner that complies with the requirements of state and federal pipeline safety regulations. We will invest $6 billion over the next five years to maintain and improve safety, reliability and service. In addition, regulators routinely audit our pipeline integrity management program – through which we monitor and maintain pipe condition and operations 24/7 – to confirm we are in compliance with all safety regulations.

I found a leak on the map that's been there a long time. Why?

Any site of methane emissions that has existed on our system for a while has been regularly inspected by our trained technicians and has been continuously found to be non-hazardous. Repair of monitored methane emissions is scheduled to prevent conflicts with paving plans and other city plans as well as coincide with SoCalGas' pipe replacement programs.

When will all the leaks be repaired?

All hazardous leaks are immediately repaired. As for the non-hazardous sites of methane emissions, SoCalGas submitted a plan to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in November 2014 to increase the rate of replacement and pipe repair on its system. We anticipate repairing all currently identified pending non-hazardous leaks by the end of 2018.

How often do you inspect the sites of methane emissions once they are detected?

SoCalGas conducts regular inspections of its system, including re-evaluating these sites. Non-hazardous sites are re-evaluated at least once a year. Those scheduled for repair are inspected as frequently as deemed necessary to certify they remain safe until repaired.

How often is the map updated?

SoCalGas updates the information on this map every month. Sites will be removed from the map as they are repaired; and newly detected methane emissions will be added at the time of the next update. As a result, there is a chance that leaks indicated on the map may no longer exist due to repairs and, that those recently detected may not have been posted to the map.

*Some people may not be able to smell the odor because they have a diminished sense of smell, olfactory fatigue (normal, temporary inability to distinguish an odor after prolonged exposure to it) or because the odor is being masked or hidden by other odors that are present, such as cooking, damp, musty or chemical odors. In addition, certain conditions in pipe and soil can cause odor fade — the loss of odorant so that it is not detectable by smell.