After More Than Three Months, California Methane Leak Finally Plugged


Environmental Defense Fund

An infrared image taken Dec. 9, 2015, shows a massive methane leak from a natural gas storage field in southern California.

After more than three months and several failed attempts to stop one of the worst natural gas leaks in U.S. history, the spewing methane above Porter Ranch — which has forced thousands of residents to flee the community since October and prompted numerous health and environmental concerns — has been halted, Southern California Gas Co. officials said Thursday.

The moment came early Thursday, when crews at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage field intercepted the base of the leaking well — more than 8,000 feet deep, at the depth of the natural gas reservoir — via a relief well and began pumping heavy fluids to temporarily control the flow of gas upward.

Now that the flow of gas has been stopped, the process of “killing” the well has begun. That process, to be confirmed by regulators, includes injecting cement into the well to permanently kill it.

“We have … begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak,” said Jimmie Cho, SoCalGas senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity, and SoCalGas incident commander. “I was very glad we achieved this for the community and our customers. And I am most pleased that we did it without any safety incidents with the workers, who have been working on this from day one.”

Since its detection on Oct. 23, the leak has pumped more than 100,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane into the air and has left SoCalGas officials investigating why this particular leak has been so hard to stop.

Read the full story here. This excerpt originally appeared at the Los Angeles Daily News and was re-posted with permission.