Stopping Natural Gas Leak Near Los Angeles is a Complex Fix
LOS ANGELES – A tricky fix is in the works to plug a massive gas leak from an underground storage well that has sickened residents of a Los Angeles neighborhood for 11 weeks.
Gas company workers are drilling a relief well to intercept a leaking pipe from a natural gas storage field a mile and a half underground. The work could be completed by the end of February.
The leak detected Oct. 23 was in one of 115 wells where Southern California Gas Co., a division of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, stores natural gas in a vacant oil field beneath the Santa Susana Mountains above Porter Ranch. The company injects the fuel when demand is low and pumps it out during colder weather or when it’s needed to fire up natural gas-fueled power plants.
It is the largest natural gas storage facility west of the Mississippi River and can provide energy to all of Southern California for a month.
The leak was initially believed to be minor and coming from the top of the head, but was probably about 500 feet underground.
Pressure averaging 2,700 pounds per square inch prevented plugging the pipe with a mud and brine solution, spraying an oily mist at one point.
The relief well will target the pipe more than a mile below the leak. If successful, mud and brine will be used to plug the leaking well.
Because it’s difficult to hit such a tiny target a mile and a half underground, or in case the muddy solution doesn’t stop the leak, the company plans to begin drilling a second relief well later this month.