Aliso Canyon cleared to restart 2 years after major natural gas leak, LA county challenges

Aliso Canyon gas leak .Source: Environmental Defence fund

State agencies have outlined steps that must be completed before natural gas injections can resume

On Oct. 23, 2015 Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) detected a major leak at Aliso Canyon, an underground natural gas storage facility located 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The Aliso Canyon storage facility, which has 115 wells, is the second-largest natural gas storage field in the western United States. The 86 billion cubic feet of working natural gas capacity at Aliso Canyon accounts for two-thirds of SoCalGas’ natural gas storage capacity, according to EIA data.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) cleared SoCalGas to resume limited injections at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility on Monday.

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The County of Los Angeles requested that the Los Angeles Superior Court stop the reopening of the Aliso Canyon gas storage field until the DOGGR completes the earthquake analysis it acknowledges is critically necessary and develops a risk assessment/emergency response plan in case of a significant earthquake damaging the field and destroying the wells.

The earthquake analysis is necessary because virtually every one of the 114 gas wells at the facility intersects with the Santa Susana fault, according to the county. Recognized seismic experts are predicting a magnitude 6.3 or greater earthquake on the fault within the next 50 years.

If so, the experts expect that the rupture along the fault will be at least one or two feet, likely shearing the wells and causing a multi-well leak far greater in magnitude than the 100,000 ton leak at just one well in 2015, the county claims.

SoCalGas issued the following statement in response to the state’s announcement:

“Aliso Canyon is an important part of Southern California’s energy system, supporting the reliability of natural gas and electricity services for millions of people. SoCalGas has met and in many cases, exceeded the rigorous requirements of the state’s comprehensive safety review.

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“Under new regulations, gas will only flow through newly installed and pressure-tested, inner steel tubing. The outer casing of wells only will serve as a secondary layer of protection. At the state’s direction, the field also will be operated at a reduced pressure, providing an added margin of safety.

“Additionally, SoCalGas has introduced industry-leading technology and practices in our operations at Aliso Canyon, including:

  • Around-the-clock pressure monitoring of all wells in a 24-hour operations center;
  • Daily patrols to visually examine every well four times each day;
  • Daily scanning of each well, using sensitive infrared thermal imaging cameras that can detect leaks; and
  • Enhanced training for our employees and contractors.

“Injection will not resume immediately. State agencies have outlined steps that must be completed before injections can resume, including a leak survey of the facility and a flyover to measure methane emissions at the site.