Preventing Leaks

Preventing Leaks

We reduce emissions and prevent leaks with Picarro, the intelligent gas detection software.

Safety, technology and environmental awareness. “Picarro Surveyor” is an innovative technology that makes the monitoring of gas leaks in our network more efficient and extensive. It is so efficient that it can detect one in a billion methane molecules (CH4) compared to one in a million with traditional techniques.

In fact, through collaboration with the American company Picarro, in 2019 we introduced intelligent software for detecting the presence of gas (Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy, CRDS) on gas detection tools. This technology places us at the forefront also in terms of limiting fugitive emissions, a topic to which the European Commission pays close attention. Although fugitive emissions only account for 0.1% of transported gas, we must strive to reduce this figure to a minimum. In fact, we have a target to reduce our total methane emissions by 20% by 2026.


Compared to the traditional methodology, the new technology offers major advantages in terms of speed of execution and the extent of the areas inspected. It is, in fact, capable of:

  • Detecting fugitive emissions with a sensitivity  three times greater than those currently used by all other industry players (parts per billion vs parts per million)
  • Detecting a gas leak even at a distance of several dozen metres from the route covered by the equipped vehicle, thanks to specific on-board sensors and sophisticated calculation software.

This means vehicles do not have to follow the route of the underground pipeline, thereby avoiding the problem of possible obstacles along the way, and exponentially increases the volume of the above-ground area monitored. From the very first applications, this technology has made it possible to control 150% more kilometres of network than the minimum standards set by the regulatory authority. Italgas is the only company in Italy to carry out the scheduled search for fugitive emissions also on all underground and overhead connections, even though this is not a legal requirement.

Benefits generated

The introduction of the new technology makes it possible to improve efficiency in gas leak detection in order to intervene promptly in safety activities. In addition, Picarro’s risk model assesses which sections of the network are most prone to leakage, paving the way to the optimisation of inspections and the prioritisation of maintenance work using machine learning algorithms.

Contribution to energy efficiency

Based on the data collected through scheduled leak detection with Picarro’s CRDS technology, we have defined a new methodology for calculating emissions deriving from fugitive natural gas leaks. This enables us to monitor these leaks, plan maintenance work on the network and reduce Italgas’ overall emissions.

Conventional system vs Picarro’s CRDS technology and equipped vehicles

Picarro in Venice and Rome

Picarro’s technology has enabled us to work more effectively even in different and very specific urban contexts. Starting with Venice, where the natural gas distribution network is unequalled in the world due to the presence of underwater pipelines, along bridges or under pedestrian crossings.

This is why we have equipped our boats as if they were our cars. Even when searching through canals, the boat can travel at normal speed, it does not need to follow the route of the pipeline and also has two GPS satellites that allow it to detect the position of the vessel very effectively.