ORCID Identifier(s)

ORCID 0000-0002-8319-0940

Document Type


Source Publication Title

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

Production/Collection Date


Production/Collection Location

Colorado State University, University of Texas at Arlington


Kathleen Smits

Deposit Date


Data Type

Experimental data


With the increased use of natural gas, safety and environmental concerns from underground leaking natural gas pipelines are becoming more widespread. What is not well understood in leakage incidents is how the soil conditions affect gas migration behavior, making it difficult to estimate the gas distribution. To shed light on these concerns, an increased understanding of subsurface methane migration after gas release is required to support efficient leak response and effective use of available technologies. In this study, three field-scale experiments were performed at the Methane Emission Technology Evaluation Center in Colorado State University to investigate the effect of soil textural heterogeneity, soil moisture, and leak rate (0.5 and 0.85 kg/h) on methane migration caused by leaking pipelines. Subsurface methane concentrations, in addition to soil moisture and meteorological data, were collected over time. A previously validated numerical model was modified and used to understand the observed methane distribution behavior. Results of this study illustrate that the influence of soil texture, leak rate, and moisture on subsurface methane distribution is determined by the relative contribution of advection and diffusion and closely related to the distance to the leak source. Advection dominates gas transport within 1–1.5 m of the leak source, driving the migration of high concentration contours. Beyond this distance, diffusion dominates migration of lower concentration contours to the far-field. Although large leak rates initially result in faster and further gas migration, the leak rate has little influence on the diffusion dominated migration farther from the leak source. Soil moisture and texture complicate gas behavior with texture variations and elevated soil moisture conditions playing a dominant role in locally increasing methane concentrations. Scenarios highlight the importance of understanding the effects of soil moisture, texture, and leak rate on gas migration behavior in an attempt to unravel their contribution to the gas concentration within the soil environment.


Earth Sciences | Engineering | Environmental Sciences

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.