The 2015 leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Los Angeles was a grim reminder of how devastating methane leaks can be. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that the four-month leak will have the same 20-year climate impact as burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline.

On The Hunt For Methane Leaks

Burning natural gas for electricity is much cleaner than coal. But there’s a problem – leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Nearly 2 years ago Colorado implemented rules to try to limit methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure. Now the EPA is proposing to model federal rules on Colorado’s. Still finding and plugging leaks remains a challenge nationwide. In Pennsylvania, where thousands of gas wells and pipelines are working the Marcellus Shale, researchers are trying to figure out how much is leaking. For our Inside Energy project, The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier tagged along.

natgasinfrastructure

Massive Gas Leak Points To Vast, Aging Natural Gas Infrastructure

Methane is spewing from an underground natural gas storage field in southern California called Aliso Canyon at a rate of 50,000 kg per hour – the equivalent of 5 million full-grown cows. The leak is causing health problems, air traffic detours, and mass evacuations. And because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, its contribution to global warming is like having three extra coal-fired power plants. This isn’t just California’s problem: In addition to those direct consequences, Aliso Canyon is a wake-up call about the challenges facing our natural gas infrastructure. U.S. energy strategy, as outlined by the new Clean Power Plan, hinges on the idea that burning natural gas has a smaller carbon footprint than burning coal.