Report recommends facility operators phase out older “single point of failure” designs responsible for Aliso Canyon leak
WASHINGTON – Today, the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety, established in the wake of last year’s massive natural gas leak at California’s Aliso Canyon site, issued a new report intended to help reduce the risk of future such incidents, according to a press release from the US Department of Energy.
The report chronicles lessons learned from the Aliso Canyon leak and analyzes the nation’s more than 400 underground natural gas storage wells.
It provides 44 recommendations to industry, federal, state, and local regulators and governments to reduce the likelihood of future leaks and minimize the impacts of any that occur.
Overall, the report finds that “while incidents at U.S. underground natural gas storage facilities are rare, the potential consequences of those incidents can be significant and require additional actions to ensure safe and reliable operation over the long term.”
In particular, the report recommends that, except under limited circumstances, facility operators phase out “single point of failure” designs that contributed to the inability to swiftly control and repair the Aliso Canyon leak.
The report recommends natural gas storage facility operators conduct risk assessments, develop and implement transition plans to address high-risk infrastructure, and apply robust procedures to maintain safety and reliability while the transition to modern well design standards is occurring.
“Natural gas plays an important role in our nation’s energy landscape, and we need to make sure the associated infrastructure is strong enough to maintain energy reliability, protect public health, and preserve our environment,” said Orr and Dominguez, who both visited the site of the Aliso Canyon leak shortly after it was controlled.
The Task Force was co-chaired by Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); and Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
“No community should have to go through something like Aliso Canyon again. Companies operating natural gas storage facilities should adopt the recommendations as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of future leaks,” said Orr and Dominguez.
The Task Force pursued three primary areas of study: integrity of wells at natural gas storage facilities, public health and environmental effects from natural gas storage leaks, and energy reliability concerns in the case of future leaks.
The report’s 44 recommendations are separated across the three areas of study and are summarized in a fact sheet available here.
After providing Administration-wide support to the state response effort, in early 2016, the White House convened the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety following the nation’s largest ever natural gas leak at California’s Aliso Canyon facility.
Natural gas provides heat to millions of American homes and is expected to provide one-third of our nation’s total electric power generation this year.
Gas storage facilities are key components of a large and complex natural gas delivery infrastructure serving homes, offices, power plants, and industrial facilities.
As noted in the report, there are approximately 400 active underground natural gas storage wells operating in 25 states of which, about 80 per cent were constructed before 1980.
Older wells are more likely to have “single point of failure” designs, which offer less protection against leaks compared to more modern designs.