“Southern California Gas Co.’s effort to plug its leaking natural gas well involves higher stakes than simply stopping the fumes that have sickened many residents of Porter Ranch. The company also is trying to avoid a blowout, which state regulators said is now a significant concern after a seventh attempt to plug the well created more precarious conditions at the site. If a blowout occurs, highly flammable gas would vent directly up through the well, known as SS25, rather than dissipating as it does now via the subsurface leak and underground channels.”
WHY ENGINEERS CAN’T STOP LOS ANGELES’ ENORMOUS METHANE LEAK / THE PUZZLE TO PLUGGING THE WORST NATGAS RELEASE IN HISTORY & COMMENTS FROM ANTHONY INGRAFFEA
“Our efforts to stop the flow of gas by pumping fluids directly down the well have not yet been successful, so we have shifted our focus to stopping the leak through a relief well,” Anne Silva, a spokesperson for the Southern California Gas Company, told Motherboard, adding that the company is still exploring other options to stop the leak. “The relief well process is on schedule to be completed by late February or late March.”
“Along with scientists and engineers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, the Berkeley Lab crew made up the so-called “Lab Team,” called in by state officials for their expertise in well integrity and well-flow modeling.
They got to work trying to figure out why eight top-kill attempts – in which heavy fluids and other materials are pumped into the well in an attempt to plug it from above – had failed. Using T2Well, a software tool developed at Berkeley Lab, Lehua Pan, a Berkeley Lab scientist with expertise in soil physics and numerical modeling, was able to simulate the behavior of the leaking well and evaluate why the top kills weren’t working.
Berkeley Lab’s modeling showed that the well’s complex geometry was contributing to the failed top-kill attempts. The simulations also showed that a relief well would be effective. Indeed, the blowout stopped within 10 minutes of the relief well intersecting the leaking SS-25 well, just as the simulations suggested.”
“INGRAFFEA: What SoCalGas did when they realized the magnitude of the problem was to call in experts, a company called Boots & Coots. They are a well-known safety and well rescue company that works all around the world to try to save wells that have blowouts and the first thing they tried to do was – again, using oil and gas terminology – kill the well, by pouring a high density liquid into the well in hopes that the pressure exerted by that column of high density liquid would overcome the pressure of the gas which is coming up the well and out into the geological formations. The problem is that the leak in the casing is occurring relatively shallow – it’s only about 500 feet below the surface of a nearly 9,000 foot deep well. But the pressure at the bottom of a column of liquid 500 feet high was insufficient to overcome the roughly 2,700 pounds per square inch of gas pressure. And so, that column of liquid could not force the gas down below the breach in the casing to stop the flow into the atmosphere, so that failed. So they resorted to the next and current method which was used at the Macondo well, to drill a so-called relief well so that it intersects this leaking well not where it’s leaking, but at its base 8,700 feet underground, or through the casing, the steel pipe there, and inject cement at the place where the gas is coming from. There are two of these relief wells being drilled, hopefully one of them works. There are many things that could go wrong. So there is no certainty here that a fix is guaranteed. So Southern California, SoCalGas, the people in Southern California, and the atmosphere of the planet is going to experience for another month or two of a large methane release.”
CORRECTION: The 500ft was an initial estimate of SoCalGas. Thx to @VanDutchmanXXX.
The actual depth of the leak was 900ft. Thx to @Quantum_Quench .
MOTHERBOARD: THE COMPANY BEHIND LA’S METHANE DISASTER KNEW ITS WELL WAS LEAKING 24 YEARS AGO (BEFORE THE BLOWOUT 2015)
“Documents show that the gas company that is currently spewing 100,000 pounds of methane into California’s air knew about leaks long before this one sprang. Last fall, a 7-inch injection well pipe ruptured 500 feet below the surface of Los Angeles, after ferrying natural gas for six decades. The resulting methane leak is now being called one of the largest environmental disasters since the BP oil spill, has pushed thousands of people out of their homes, and has quickly become the single biggest contributor to climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions in California. But it’s not the first time this well sprang a leak—and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), which owns and operates the well, knew it.”
AND BIG SURPRISE: the document of interest is of course no longer available under the link in the article. It can be found here instead: https://web.archive.org/web/20160119044436/http://owr.conservation.ca.gov/WellRecord/037/03700776/03700776_DATA_03-19-2008.pdf
“In 2013, SoCalGas applied for and received money to do upgrades on equipment like safety valves—money that the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) says should have been used to prevent a leak like this. The regulatory decision filing shows that SoCalGas was granted $898,000 per year (in addition to the regular fund of about $3 million per year for repairs) to replace 5 percent of its safety valves at Aliso Canyon. According to EDF, these extra funds weren’t used as they should have been—to prevent a leak of this magnitude.”: https://www.socalgas.com/regulatory/documents/a-10-12-006/Testimony/revised/Exhibit%20SCG-04R%20J_Mansdorfer_SCG-R_Underground_Storage_Testimony.pdf
“In 2014, written testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission by SoCalGas Director of Storage Operations Phillip Baker documented corrosion and negative integrity trends in the aging pipeline. Without a new inspection plan, SoCalGas and customers could experience major failures and service interruptions from potential hazards that currently remain undetected,” he wrote. The filing also noted that as of 2014, half of the company’s 229 storage wells were over 57 years old, and 52 wells were more than 70 years old.”: https://www.socalgas.com/regulatory/documents/a-14-11-004/SCG-06_P__Baker_Testimony.pdf . A commented version of this testimony can be found here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2662339-SoCal-Gas-Direct-testimony-of-Phillip-E-Baker.html
“Other safety issues have been pointed out recently, too. Earlier this month, The LA Times reported that attorneys representing some of the 1,000 residents suing SoCalGas over the leak claim the company failed to replace an important safety valve that was removed in 1979—a valve that could have stopped the current leak in its tracks. The plaintiffs also allege that the company again identified leaks at the site five years ago, but never implemented plans to fix them.”: http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/f00dd871-41d3-4490-86cd-e557e132cb04
“Before she retired in 2014, Anneliese Anderle was a field engineer for the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermic Resources, which regulates oil drilling. She worked out of offices in Bakersfield, Cypress and Ventura, and for a while she was responsible for monitoring the massive natural gas storage field at Aliso Canyon.
Southern California Gas owns the facility, which distributes gas to 14 power plants and 21 million customers. In her years monitoring wells at Aliso Canyon, Anderle says she got to know the gas company as “a first-class operation.”
The company tended to be conservative, and to do things rigorously and by the book. But the wells at Aliso Canyon were aging, and many were starting to wear out.
“They have a beautiful facility,” she says. “It’s gleaming. They have great roads and well-marked pipelines. Everything’s painted. But just below the surface, it’s junk.””
“Gas leaks are not uncommon, and it took a couple weeks for this one to become news. When Anderle heard about it, in early November, she pulled up the well record on a state website. The file dates back to when the well was drilled in 1953. As she looked it over, she zeroed in on a piece of equipment 8,451 feet underground called a sub-surface safety valve.
If it were working properly, the gas company would be able to shut down the well. The fact that SoCalGas hadn’t meant, to her, that it must be broken. The records indicated that it had not been inspected since 1976.
“That’s almost 40 years,” she says. “It’s a long time to leave it in the well.”
As weeks went by and further efforts to stop the leak failed, it became clear that the company was dealing with an unprecedented catastrophe.
On Dec. 15, the Weekly interviewed Rodger Schwecke, a SoCalGas executive who is helping to coordinate the response to the leak. Asked about the safety valve, he said it wasn’t damaged. It actually wasn’t there.
“We removed that valve in 1979,” he said.””
FRACTRACKER: A CLIMATE DISASTER – CALIFORNIA IN STATE OF EMERGENCY AS A RESULT OF MASSIVE NATURAL GAS LEAK
“A natural gas well equipment failure in southern California has resulted in the largest point release of methane to the atmosphere in U.S. history. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a California state of emergency for the incident, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has identified the site as the single largest source point of global warming. Since October 23, 2015 the failure has been reported to be releasing 62 million cubic feet of methane per day – 110,000 pounds per hour – for a total of about 80 million metric tons thus far. This quantity amounts to a quarter of California’s total methane emissions, and the impact to the climate is calculated to be the equivalent of the operation of 7 million cars. SoCalGas (a subsidiary of Sempra Energy) reports that nothing can be done to stop or reduce the leak until February or March of 2016. As a result, the nearby community of Porter Ranch has been largely evacuated (30,000 people) due to health complaints and the rotten egg smell of tertbutyl mercaptan and tetradydrothiophen. Air quality sampling, being assessed by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard and Assessment (OEHHA), measured volatile organic compounds, specifically the carcinogen benzene, at concentrations below acute toxicity health standards. Exposure to benzene even at low levels presents a risk of cancer and other health hazards. Locals have complained of headaches, sore throats, nosebleeds and nausea. The LA County Department of Public Health has ordered SoCalGas to offer free temporary relocation to any area residents affected. About 1,000 people are suing the company.”
Archived Aliso Canyon Resources: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/ArchivedAlisoCanyon.aspx
Actual Aliso Canyon Updates and Resources: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/AlisoCanyon.aspx
“After putting numerous safeguards in place to protect public safety and the environment, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources and California Public Utilities Commission have concurred that natural gas injection may resume at the Aliso Canyon storage facility. Before, and soon after, resuming injection, Southern California Gas must comply with the requirements of an order issued by the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), including flyovers to check methane levels. Since the leak was plugged at the Los Angeles County facility 17 months ago, significant improvements and upgrades have been made to infrastructure, testing, operations, and monitoring to ensure safe operations. The Division completed a comprehensive safety review at Aliso Canyon in January, consulting with the nationally recognized experts from the Lawerence Livermore, Lawerence Berkeley and Sandia National Laboratories on extensive site inspections and review of Southern California Gas’s testing. The facility will operate with significantly reduced storage capacity and maximum injection pressures.”
Public Notice confirming the sealing of the leaking well at the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facillity: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/index/Pages/public-notice-confirming-sealing-of-leaking-well-at-the-aliso-canyon-gas-storage-facility.aspx
“NOTICE IS HEREBY PROVIDED that the leaking well (SS25) at the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility has been successfully sealed. The Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (Division) bases this determination on its review of the results of a battery of post-cementing tests conducted by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas). These tests were conducted at the Division’s direction and under the Division’s supervision. Each test was witnessed by a Senior Oil and Gas Engineer from the Division. This set of confirmation tests was formulated in consultation with technical experts from the Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories. The tests measure specific criteria to determine if any gas is still leaking from the gas storage reservoir through the cement plug in SS25. The results of the tests, set forth below, indicate that the sealing of the well was successful. Detailed descriptions of these tests can be found on the Department’s website.”
The well record of the SS-25 can be accessd over FTP here: ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/Standard_Sesnon_25_API_037-00776_Well_File/, and here: ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/WellRecord2/037/03700776/
(I have no idea why they split this up. The well records where previously all at ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/WellRecord/. They are now distributed over ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/WellRecord/ & ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/WellRecord2/.)
Test Results of Aliso Canyon Wells: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/AlisoCanyon/Pages/Well-Detail.aspx
“The Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has ordered that all 114 injection wells be thoroughly tested for safety and competence before injection resumes into the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field. The Division developed a protocol of six tests in consultation with the Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley National Laboratories. Test results are submitted by Southern California Gas, reviewed by Division staff, and then posted on this page. Wells must pass all tests within one year or be permanently sealed (plugged and abandoned).”
All these test documents can be downloaded over FTP: ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/Aliso%20Canyon%20Safety%20Review/
A map of the Aliso Canyon wells being tested for integrity can be found here: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=8ed33d61425543869af50eb04442b602
Southern California Gas is also required to file reports on its progress toward completing the safety review every first and third Friday of the month. They can be downloaded over FTP: ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/SCG_Reports/
DOGGR Order No. 1118: Pre-Injection Requirements for the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/Pre-Injection-Requirements-for-the-Aliso-Canyon-Natural-Gas-Storage-Facility.aspx
“Although the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission have concurred that the prohibition on injection at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility should be ended, the Southern California Gas Company must meet requirements specified in the State Oil & Gas Supervisor’s Formal Order No. 1118 before and after injection commences. The requirements include the tests and temporary actions that follow. As Southern California Gas Company fulfills each requirement, any required documentation will be linked.”
SoCalGas has to report about pressure, injection & withdrawal in Aliso Canyon daily, the reports can be downloaded over FTP: ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/Aliso_Daily_Reports
Aliso Canyon – Attachment B Documents: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/AlisoCanyon/Pages/AlisoCanyon-SoCalGas-AttachmentB.aspx
“Attachment B documents accompanying Southern California Gas’ November 1 letter to the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources requesting permission to resume injection into the Aliso Canyon storage field.”
(This is just to collect & information. I will comment on remarkable documents in another post. I made backups of all of this, so if something should disappear from the DOGGR website, let me know.)
Aliso Canyon Well Failure: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/aliso/
“On October 23, 2015, a leak at a Southern California Gas Company natural gas storage well was discovered by crews at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility. State agencies are working with SoCalGas and local agencies to monitor the situation and ensure public safety. On this page you will find information about the CPUC’s actions, and links to information that is available on other state agency websites, such as the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, which has primary jurisdiction over the Aliso Canyon wells.”
Aliso Canyon Investigation: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/AlisoOII/
“On February 9, 2017, the CPUC opened a proceeding (called an Order Instituting Investigation; I.17-02-002) to determine the feasibility of minimizing or eliminating the use of Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility while still maintaining energy and electric reliability for the Los Angeles region. A final decision in this proceeding is expected mid-2018, but the CPUC has slated a 24-month timeframe from opening of the proceeding in February 2017 to complete all work. The purpose of the proceeding is to examine the long-term viability of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. The scope of the proceeding does not include the question of whether the facility should be reopened for injections, but rather the long-term feasibility of minimizing or eliminating the use of the facility while still maintaining energy and electric reliability for the Los Angeles region, consistent with maintaining just and reasonable rates. Senate Bill 380 required the CPUC to open this proceeding no later than July 1, 2017, and to consult with the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, the California Independent System Operator, the local publicly owned utilities that rely on natural gas for electricity generation, the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources in the Department of Conservation (DOGGR), and relevant government entities, and others in making its determination. The CPUC expects and welcomes involvement and input from a wide range of interested entities to inform its decision-making process.”
Leak Survey Results – March 16, 2016: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/General.aspx?id=10456
“On Jan. 26, 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) directed all California natural gas storage operators to immediately inspect all natural gas storage facilities for leaks and report the information to the state. The operators submitted their results in February and SED utilized independent criteria from the Gas Piping Technology Committee (GPTC), which includes experts from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, to ensure all identified leaks were repaired or are in the process of being repaired. Ninety-five percent, or 218, of the 229 leaks reported across all natural gas storage fields between October 26, 2015 and February 5, 2016, were non-hazardous and required minor responses such as tightening or lubricating valves. Eight were “Grade 1”, meaning that they potentially posed a safety hazard. Those eight leaks have been addressed: six leaks were repaired and two leaks no longer exist because there is currently no gas within related wellhead components (components must be repaired before gas is reintroduced). Gill Ranch Storage, PG&E, and Wild Goose Storage are completing repairs on the remaining 22 non-hazardous leaks. SED will conduct a follow-up inspection to verify that the remaining 22 leaks are repaired. In summary, as a result of this survey and the mandatory remedial action taken there are no immediate or probable future hazards in California related to gas leaks. Going forward, daily leak monitoring, as required by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), is in place and will ensure quick identification of hazards. DOGGR , in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (ARB), will further refine the daily requirements. All the identified leaks were above ground (not leaking from the well storage zone) except for one below ground leak on a flange, which has been repaired.”
Aliso Canyon Summer and Winter Technical Assessments: http://cpuc.ca.gov/alisoassessments/
(This is just to collect & information. I will comment on remarkable documents in another post. I made backups of all of this, so if something should disappear from the CPUC website, let me know.)