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A massive methane leak in Southern California continues to spew gas into the air, and a permanent solution could be months away.
A well at a natural gas storage facility owned by Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, has been leaking large volumes of natural gas for more than two months. Businesses and residents in the area around the Aliso Canyon storage field, located in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles have been negatively affected. Over 2,000 households have been relocated. SoCalGas says that it could take another three months before the well is plugged.
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The gas field has a capacity of 86 billion cubic feet of natural gas. SoCalGas will have to drill a relief well at more than 8,500 feet of depth, and pump cement into the leaking well in order to cut off the gas flows. It is also withdrawing more gas from the field than is normal in order to reduce well pressure.
Natural gas is invisible to the naked eye, but infrared cameras show massive plumes of gas leaking from the Aliso Canyon field. SoCalGas has not issued estimates on the volume of gas now leaking from the well. The uncontrolled release of gas recalls images of the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, in which the Macondo well leaked oil for months as the oil major struggled to figure out a solution.
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The communities affected are outraged at state and local officials that have failed to declare a state of emergency or have otherwise paid little attention to the problem. But the U.S. EPA has launched an investigation into SoCalGas’ leaking well, following a letter sent from U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman.
SoCalGas says that the methane leak does not present a threat to public health, but residents and city officials are filing suits against the company over environmental and health-related damages. SoCalGas has offered to pay for relocation costs and for the costs of air purification equipment for residents. According to a lawsuit by Los Angeles city attorney alleges that the leak is emitting 100,000 pounds of methane into the air every hour.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com