Assessment of Bay Area Gas Pipeline Vulnerability to Sea Water Intrusion

Investigating the Impacts of Climate Change on Natural Gas Pipelines

The Regents of the University of California on behalf of the Berkeley campus


Berkeley, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The research team met with PG&E to understand potential economic implications of their model results on natural gas infrastructure in the Delta and finished modeling inundation risks along the open coast (50 m resolution).

The Issue

Most of California's energy infrastructure was built for past climatic conditions. However, as demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina, inundation with salt-and-brackish water can pose a challenge for natural gas pipelines. Much of California's critical natural gas infrastructure is in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which must contend with rising sea levels. Prior to this research, no high-resolution, dynamical modeling work has been undertaken to reveal the potential for levee overtopping due to extreme storm events coupled with sea level rise that could occur by end-of-century.

Project Innovation

Researchers developed an improved, high-resolution hydrodynamical model to simulate storm surge coupled with various increments of sea level rise to estimate the potential impacts to natural gas pipelines in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta region. The researchers worked very closely with PG&E to investigate the vulnerability of natural gas infrastructure to inundation associated with sea level rise and extreme storm events as well as possible resilience options and their economic costs.

Project Benefits

The researchers used an unprecedented level of geographical detail and a dynamic surface hydrological model substantially enhanced for this project. The simulations are very realistic and, for this reason, PG&E was fully engaged and reviewed the final products. As presented in the June 21, 2016 IEPR Adaptation Workshop, PG&E intends to use study results in their efforts to better understand risks posed by climate change and to integrate resilience planning into risk management.

Greater Reliability


This project uncovered potential vulnerabilities to the natural gas system to sea level rise and extreme storm events with enough time to implement measures to mitigate and/or avoid potential impacts.

Key Project Members

Project Member

John Radke


Contact the Team