News Releases

Looking for Methane

Jan 8, 2014

Natural gas safety is a fulltime job for a small group of NV Energy technicians who spend their days inspecting gas mains throughout the Truckee Meadows to ensure they are in top operating condition. They check the underground steel and polyethylene pipes that deliver natural gas to local homes, schools and businesses with sophisticated methane gas leak detectors. (Natural gas consists primarily of methane.)

“The device they use looks like a radar gun and it shoots a laser beam that can detect methane gas molecules up to 100 feet away,” explained Jay Wiggins, supervisor of gas operations and compliance for NV Energy.

If gas molecules are detected along a main by the detection equipment, additional testing is conducted with another device to determine the severity of the leak. Next, a crew is sent to the site to make repairs.

NV Energy serves approximately 153,500 natural gas customers in the Reno-Sparks area and operates a liquid propane gas system for nearly 400 customers in the community of Lockwood east of Sparks. Gas is delivered to NV Energy customers through a complex network of more than 3,000 miles of pipelines, ranging from a half inch to 18 inches in diameter.

“It’s important for us to do these safety checks and to find any leaks before they become hazardous,” Wiggins said, adding that when it comes to the number of leaks per system mile, an industry standard, NV Energy is among the top 10 percent of the 200 energy companies affiliated with the American Gas Association.

Commercial districts and schools in Reno-Sparks are inspected for leaks annually and residential neighborhoods are inspected every five years, Wiggins said.

Besides checking the integrity of the pipelines on a routine basis, Wiggins said NV Energy has an ongoing program to replace aging gas facilities in its service area. 

NV Energy also relies on customers to identify and report leaks. Because natural gas is odorless and colorless, gas suppliers add an odorant called mercaptan with a noxious sulfur or rotten egg smell. Leaks may also be accompanied by an unusual hissing sound.

Leaks aren’t confined to pipes buried underground. If you think you smell natural gas inside your home, don’t ignore it. Evacuate the area and call NV Energy’s 24-hour emergency telephone number (775) 834-4100 to report the possible leak, or call 911. Be sure to use a telephone that’s well away from the vicinity of the leak. Do the same for any leaks you might discover outside your home.

About NV Energy, Inc.

NV Energy, Inc. provides a wide range of energy services to 1.3 million customers throughout Nevada and nearly 40 million tourists annually.  NV Energy is a holding company whose principal subsidiaries, Nevada Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power Company, are doing business as NV Energy. The company is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada. Information about NV Energy is available on the company’s website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages, which can be accessed via

For further information: Karl Walquist, (775) 834-3891