US methane leak is now emergency situation

Article by Staff Writer

A GAS storage well located in a suburb of the US city Los Angeles which has been leaking methane at rate of 30,000 kg/h since October 2015 has led to a state of emergency being red in the area. The well now accounts for approximately a quarter of California’s total methane emissions currently produced.

The underground well is situated approximately 2 km from residential areas, and many residents have reported adverse health effects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and difficulties in breathing. More than 2,000 households have been evacuated in the affected areas thus far.

Well owner, Southern California Gas Co (SoCal) is currently drilling relief wells to stop the leakage, however, the company estimates the leak will continue until February.

Jerry Brown, governor of California, has ordered new safety regulations for all natural gas storage facilities in California. These include daily inspections of wellheads using infrared detection technology; verifying mechanical integrity of wells; measuring gas flow and pressure; and increasing the frequency of safety valve tests.

Brown ordered state agencies to “utilise all necessary state personnel, equipment, and facilities to ensure a continuous and thorough response to this incident.”

SoCal reported that an injection-well pipe – used for underground gas storage – was broken at a depth of 152 m out of a total depth of over 2.6 km. SoCal has not stated a reason for why the pipe ruptured. However, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is investigating the cause of the pipe failure.

Dennis Arriola, gas chief executive for SoCal said, “Our focus remains on quickly and safely stopping the leak and minimising the impact to our neighbours.”

According to the CaliforniaOil and Gas Program (COGP), the environmental impact of the well incident has been the equivalent of burning 3.2bn l of oil per day, the damaged caused by 4.5m cars.

Timothy O'Connor, director of the COGP for Environmental Defense Fund said the incident was, “the worst case that you might imagine. It's a stark example of how important it is to regulate methane.”

Article by Staff Writer

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