Thursday, February 11, 2016

California Natural Gas Leak Reportedly Plugged

Southern California Gas Company has announced that a blowout at a natural gas well that gushed uncontrollably for 16 weeks and drove thousands of residents from their Los Angeles homes has been plugged.
The well still needs to be permanently sealed with cement and inspected by state regulators.  This marks the first time the leak has been under control since it was reported Oct. 23.
The leak is expected to cost the company, a division of Sempra Energy, at least $250 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
That figure could climb much higher because it only accounts for costs of capping the well and relocating about 6,400 families. It does not include potential damages from more than two dozen lawsuits, penalties from government agencies and expenses to mitigate pollution.
The upscale Porter Ranch community in the San Fernando Valley could begin to return to normalcy after schools were closed and about 6,000 families were uprooted as they complained of headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and other symptoms as an intermittent stench wafted through the area.
While the gas was invisible, public health officials blamed their woes on an odorant added to gas so it can be detected and have said they don't expect long-term health impacts.
The leak at the largest underground gas storage reservoir in the West was declared an emergency by the governor. At its peak, the leak was estimated to contribute about a quarter of the state's climate-altering methane emissions, leading some to call it the worst environmental disaster since the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The blowout happened in a 60-year-old well that was built to pump oil from porous rock a mile-and-a-half below the Santa Susana Mountains. After the oil ran dry in the 1970s, the field of 115 wells was reused to store natural gas.
When demand and prices were low, gas was injected at high pressure in the ground. It was piped out during cold months or to fuel gas-run electricity plants during energy spikes.
SoCalGas has paid to relocate residents in hotels, apartments and houses.  Some folks have said they don't want to move back, and many are concerned about what the incident has done to the value of their homes. The company is facing more than two dozen lawsuits, some of which seek class-action status.  (AP, 1/11/2016)

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