Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Helix Power on Track to Save Energy

A pleasure to talk about the groundbreaking energy storage technology being developed by Helix Power at the Greentown Labs today. Matthew Lazarewicz Founder and President of Helix Power invited me and Representative Keiko Orrall to come to Greentown Labs, the largest clean technology incubator in the United States, to talk about the work that they will be doing to harvest and instantly reuse subway train energy in their newly announced partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Helix also just received a $500 thousand dollar award with Sandia National Labs which is funded by the U.S Department of Energy.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Flu Season Arrives - Vaccinations Are Available

Today is the start of the state’s flu surveillance monitoring and reporting for the 2018-2019 season. Already, since the start of September, Massachusetts has had nearly 80 lab-confirmed flu cases reported, well within the expected range for this time of year.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health officials are recommending that everyone take steps to prevent the spread of flu by getting vaccinated.

DPH recommends that you:
  • Get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. 
  • Wash hands thoroughly, use hand sanitizer when washing is not possible.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. 
  • Stay home when sick with fever and cough or sore throat, and keep children home from school and daycare when sick. 
  • Contact a healthcare provider promptly if you think that you have the flu.
Flu can be very serious. The most common symptoms of flu are fever, cough, and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and feeling very tired. Every year in the United States, millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands of people or tens of thousands die from flu-related illnesses. Those at higher risk of serious health problems when they get the flu include pregnant women, infants, the elderly and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, neurological and neuromuscular conditions and weakened immune systems.

Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated death by half among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds among healthy children. Nationwide, there were 180 pediatric deaths from the flu last year and approximately 80 percent of those who died did not receive a flu vaccine.

Flu vaccine is available across the state at multiple locations, including health care provider offices, pharmacies, school and workplace vaccination clinics, and flu vaccine clinics sponsored by local boards of health. A list of flu vaccine availability based on zip code can be found at https://vaccinefinder.org/.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

NTSB: Preliminary Report Pipeline: Over-pressure of a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Low-pressure Natural Gas Distribution System

Today my office received from the National Transportation Safety Board their preliminary report on the Over-pressure of a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Low-pressure Natural Gas Distribution System.

Here is the Executive Summary of the report:

Executive Summary

The information in this report is preliminary and will be either supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.

On September 13, 2018, about 4:00 p.m. eastern daylight time, a series of explosions and fires occurred after high-pressure natural gas was released into a low-pressure gas distribution system in the northeast region of the Merrimack Valley in the state of Massachusetts.1 (See figure 1.) The distribution system was owned and operated by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (Columbia Gas), a subsidiary of NiSource. The system over-pressure damaged 131 structures, including at least 5 homes that were destroyed in the city of Lawrence and the towns of Andover and North Andover. Most of the damage was a result of structure fires ignited by gas-fueled appliances. Several structures were destroyed by natural gas explosions. One person was killed and at least 21 individuals, including 2 firefighters, were transported to the hospital. Seven other firefighters received minor injuries.

Fire departments from the three municipalities were dispatched to address the multiple fires and explosions. First responders initiated the state’s fire mobilization plan, that included mutual aid from other districts in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Emergency responders asked residents to evacuate from the impacted area to four evacuation centers. At the request of emergency management officials, National Grid shut down electrical power in the affected area to remove a source of ignition. Nearby roads were closed, and freight and passenger railroad operations were suspended. Columbia Gas also shut down the low-pressure, natural gas distribution system.[2]

The cast-iron, low-pressure distribution system was installed in the early 1900s and had been partially improved with both steel and plastic pipe upgrades since the 1950s. The low-pressure distribution system in the affected area relied on 14 regulator stations to control gas at the required pressure into structures serviced by the system, unlike high-pressure gas distribution systems that place an individual regulator to reduce pressure at each customer service.[3] Each of the regulator stations reduced the pressure from about 75-pounds per square inch gauge (psig) natural gas main pipeline to 12 inches of water column (about 0.5 psig) for delivery to customers.

Prior to the over-pressure event, a Columbia Gas-contracted work crew, which included a Columbia Gas inspector, was performing a Columbia Gas-designed and approved pipe-replacement project at a nearby intersection (South Union Street and Salem Street) in South Lawrence. The contracted crew was working on a tie-in project of a new plastic distribution main and the abandonment of a cast-iron distribution main. The distribution main that was abandoned still had the regulator sensing lines that were used to detect pressure in the distribution system and provide input to the regulators to control the system pressure. Once the contractor crews disconnected the distribution main that was going to be abandoned, the section containing the sensing lines began losing pressure.

As the pressure in the abandoned distribution main dropped about 0.25 inches of water column (about 0.01 psig), the regulators responded by opening further, increasing pressure in the distribution system. Since the regulators no longer sensed system pressure they fully opened allowing the full flow of high-pressure gas to be released into the distribution system supplying the neighborhood, exceeding the maximum allowable pressure.

Columbia Gas developed and approved the work package executed on the day of the accident. The work package did not account for the location of the sensing lines or require their relocation to ensure the regulators were sensing actual system pressure. The work was performed in accordance with steps laid out in the work package. In light of this accident, Columbia Gas implemented a safety stand-down for all employees who perform work related to low-pressure natural gas systems for NiSource subsidiaries.[4]

Minutes before the fires and explosions occurred, the Columbia Gas monitoring center in Columbus, Ohio, received two high-pressure alarms for the South Lawrence gas pressure system: one at 4:04 p.m. and the other at 4:05 p.m. The monitoring center had no control capability to close or open valves; its only capability was to monitor pressures on the distribution system and advise field technicians accordingly. Following company protocol, at 4:06 p.m., the Columbia Gas controller reported the high-pressure event to the Meters and Regulations group in Lawrence. A local resident made the first 9-1-1 call to Lawrence emergency services at 4:11 p.m.

Columbia Gas shut down the regulator at issue by about 4:30 p.m. The critical valves of the involved natural gas distribution system were closed by 7:24 p.m. Beginning about midnight, crews consisting of two Columbia Gas technicians escorted by two emergency response personnel began shutting off the meters at each house to isolate the homes from the natural gas distribution system. All meters were shut off by the following morning.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Robert Sumwalt and Member Jennifer Homendy led a 19-member NTSB team on scene. Parties to the investigation include NiSource, Columbia Gas, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Massachusetts State Police, and Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. In addition to the on-scene work, investigators interviewed multiple people including two Columbia Gas Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition controllers from Columbus, Ohio.

According to Columbia Gas, all cast iron and bare steel piping in the affected neighborhoods will be replaced due to system integrity concerns. The new system will consist of high-pressure plastic mains with regulators at each service meter to reduce the line pressure from the main to the required pressure. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is providing oversight of the new system installation to ensure that all work complies with state and federal safety regulations.

The NTSB’s investigation into this accident is ongoing. Future investigative issues include the coordination between the emergency responders and Columbia Gas; an analysis of the engineering work package preparation and execution, including the design documentation; and a review of construction packages for constructability and safety.

1. Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 192.3 defines a low-pressure distribution system as “a distribution system in which the gas pressure in the main is substantially the same as the pressure provided to the customer.” The Massachusetts Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Code, Title 220 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 101.06, further defines a low-pressure distribution system “as any system in which the gas pressure in the main is equal to or less than two psig (pounds per square inch gauge).”

2. Columbia Gas delivers natural gas to about 320,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Massachusetts, including the Merrimack Valley.

3. Title 49 CFR 192.3 defines a high-pressure distribution system as “a distribution system in which the gas pressure in the main is higher than the pressure provided to the customer.” The Massachusetts Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Code, 220 CMR 101.06, further defines a high-pressure distribution system “as a system in which the pressure in the main is greater than 60 psig, but equal to or less than 200 psig.”

4. A safety stand-down is an organized break from work by which employers hold discussions with their employees. They are often taken as occasions to discuss safety topics while also reinforcing the organization’s policies regarding safety in general.

The full preliminary report can be found here: https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/PLD18MR003-preliminary-report.aspx

Below are a few photos provided by the NTSB:


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

Dyslexia affects one in five people, regardless of race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. Nancy Duggan, Executive Director of Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts and her colleagues joined me in the State House today to talk about literacy and Dyslexia Awareness Month. I appreciated her kind words about my work to include literacy grant funding for dyslexia in this year's final budget.

Governor Charlie Baker has proclaimed October as Dyslexia Awareness Month. A proper diagnosis of dyslexia can identify those who need extra help.


Massachusetts' Helix Power on Track with the MBTA

After weeks of work facilitating the introduction of Helix Power, and their groundbreaking energy systems, to policy making government agencies I am happy that they and the MBTA are working together to reduce the T's use of electricity, lower output of greenhouse gases, and lower operation costs for subway train systems.

Helix Power - MBTA Sign MOU by Anonymous iQcr1Gz on Scribd


Groundbreaking Energy Storage Technology Moves MBTA To Explore Options With Helix Power Corporation

New Data Sharing Agreement to Produce Demonstration of Energy Saving System to Reduce Carbon Emissions & Save Operating Dollars

Boston- The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has turned toward an emerging clean energy storage system developed by Helix Power Corporation of Somerville to capture energy used to slow subway trains and make that energy immediately available for acceleration thus yielding electricity savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

Under terms of a new agreement between the T and Helix Power, the developers of a high-tech high-powered flywheel energy storage system, the company will receive data of train movements in order to design a system to meet the transportation authority’s needs while reducing carbon emissions.

The Helix flywheel system temporarily stores energy used to slow subway trains and makes it immediately transferable to accelerate them, a major high-power demand that rapid transit operators must continuously contend with. Those familiar with the technology say that Helix could simultaneously cut the MBTA’s greenhouse gas emissions, its overall energy consumption, and reduce the T’s peak demand on the power grid.

“Helix Power is introducing an advanced energy storage technology using high power short duration flywheels as an extreme energy management tool.” said Matthew Lazarewicz Founder and President of Helix Power. “We are delighted to sign an agreement with the MBTA to demonstrate our technology in their service environment for the largest single electric consumer in the Commonwealth. Implementation on the MBTA has the potential to manage high energy fluctuations, save energy being wasted and reduce greenhouse gases at an accelerated rate.”

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester) and Representative Keiko Orrall (R- Lakeville) have helped facilitate the introduction of the technology to policy leaders in Washington D.C. and in Massachusetts. They call the arrangement between the MBTA and Helix a major opportunity for the transit authority, the state’s largest consumer of electricity, to reduce energy consumption and operating costs while reducing per passenger mile greenhouse gas emissions.

“Controlling carbon emissions from the transportation sector has been challenging but this agreement represents an opportunity for the MBTA to accomplish major goals like reducing energy consumption, dampening pressure on fares and dedicating savings to capital equipment improvements that can help the entire system,” said Tarr. “I am happy to help raise awareness about the application of this technology from a company with Massachusetts ties.”

The Helix flywheel has attracted the attention of governments, researchers, and industry leaders including the U.S. Department of Transportation and recent funding from backers including the U.S. Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“Flywheel technology with its ultrafast response is ideally suited to act as a buffer between the electric grid and urban rail, reducing energy consumption and thus bringing down greenhouse gas emissions” said Dr. Imre Gyuk, Director of Energy Storage Research for the U.S. Department of Energy. Sandia National Laboratory has awarded a $500,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity to Helix in support of these technology developments. That grant will leverage matching funding as part of an additional $2.5 million from the New York State Research and Development Authority.

"I'm excited to help Massachusetts be showcased as a global leader in emerging technology. This partnership provides a great opportunity to explore ways of saving energy costs in transportation," said Representative Keiko Orrall (R- Lakeville).

Able to deliver a full discharge of 1 megawatt of energy in 90 seconds, the Helix system would also be charged by a subway train’s braking in the same amount of time. By efficiently capturing energy from an existing use, braking to approach a station platform, the system can yield electricity savings of 30 to 50% while also minimizing short-term peak load spikes on equipment and substations.

Emerging from the Greentown Labs in Somerville, the largest ‘cleantech’ incubator in the Northeast, Helix Power founders are collaborating with state and federal governments to utilize their technology which can use 100% of its rated power without loss of performance over time – unlike batteries and electrical capacitors.

The three year agreement between the T and Helix is intended to produce a full-scale test incorporating input from the MBTA regarding operating specifications and a full performance analysis that could reinvent the way metro trains roll.


Andover, North Andover and Lawrence Public Meetings With Division of Insurance

The Division of Insurance will host a series of information sessions on Thursday, October 11, 2018 in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, the Merrimack Valley communities impacted by the fires and gas explosions that took place on September 13, 2018.

As recovery efforts continue, the Division is holding these sessions to provide consumers and businesses affected by the fires and gas explosions with information on how to file disaster-related insurance claims. Division officials will also summarize the efforts taken by the Division thus far, and answer questions regarding how carriers should be responding to a homeowner or business filing an insurance claim. These sessions will also include input from insurance carriers and others providing assistance at claim centers.

Each information session will conclude with a Question and Answer period. Bilingual language assistance will be available. The schedule for the information sessions is as follows:

Andover: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Andover Town Offices Board of Selectmen’s Meeting Room, 36 Bartlett Street, Andover, MA

North Andover: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
North Andover Town Hall, Board of Selectmen’s Meeting Room, 120 Main Street, North Andover, MA

Lawrence: 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Lawrence High School Performing Arts Auditorium 70-71 N. Parish Rd, Lawrence, MA