A huge natural gas leak in California is releasing methane into the air, which would equate to the impact that seven million more cars (added to the existing ones) would have on climate change, scientists say.
The gas leak led to flight restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration and evacuations in southern California. The now two-month-long leak was discovered by Southern California Gas Company on October 23.
In November, the gas leak reached its highest point at fifty-eight metric tons of methane released per hour, the California Air Resources Board stated. The release decreased to thirty-six percent by mid-December, according to the preliminary estimates.
Due to the winds in the area, methane – which is lighter than air – can also move downhill to more populated areas. Residents in Porter Ranch, which is about one mile (1.6 km) from the site, started reporting illnesses shortly after the leak began.
More than two thousand families from Porter Ranch were relocated with the help of Southern California Gas. About 2,600 families are also awaiting help from the company to relocate. Flight restrictions on the site were also imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Timothy O’Connor, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s oil and gas program in California, said that because these types of fields tend to be unmonitored, they can pose a great danger. For instance in 2001, gas moved to formations beneath Hutchinson, Kansas, causing a gas explosion.
Dennis Arriola, the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of California Gas, apologised in a letter released December 23 and assured residents that they would stop the leakage of methane as soon as possible.
In an effort to counteract the pressure which the gas was under, the company pumped brine down the well, but their attempt did not work. To seal off the leaking well, Southern California Gas is now drilling two relief wells that must reach 8,000 feet (2.43 km) below the surface.
There are no rules in California with regards to storing methane. However, because of the new gas leak, the rules that have been in the works for a while may also include storage.
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