Porter Ranch 'Monster' Gas Leak Largest in U.S. History
According to a peer-reviewed study published Thursday in the journal Science, the nearly four-month leak released roughly 100,000 tons of methane—effectively doubling the methane emissions rate of the entire Los Angeles Basin. Southern California Gas Co. said it stopped the leak earlier this month. State Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources engineers confirmed the leak was halted last week.
"Aliso Canyon will be, certainly, the biggest single [methane] source of the year," said co-lead study author Stephen Conley of UC Davis and Scientific Aviation. "It's definitely a monster."
Beyond that, he told Inside Climate News, "It's the biggest leak in U.S. history."
As the Los Angeles Times reports, "Conley piloted a single-engine plane rigged with methane and ethane sensors through the plume and analyzed it during 13 different research flights between Nov. 7 and Feb. 13, with the last readings taken just two days after the well was temporarily halted."
The newspaper continues:
With each flight, he would start very low—perhaps a couple hundred feet off the ground—fly through the plume, turn around and go back through at about 100 feet higher. He would do this until he reached the top of the plume, which could take anywhere from about 16 to 35 passes. Adding these slices up would give him the total emissions from the plume at that time. Even after the first flight, the methane readings alarmed him.
“It was 20 times larger than anything else we'd ever measured—it was just kind of a shock," said Conley, who recalled thinking, “What in the world was this big?"
With the leak's pollution equivalent to annual emissions from half a million cars, the disaster will substantially affect California's ability to meet greenhouse gas emission targets for the year, added Tom Ryerson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). "Our results show how failures of natural gas infrastructure can significantly impact greenhouse gas control efforts," he said.
In a blog post Thursday, Environmental Defense Fund chief scientist Steven Hamburg noted that Conley's results were "much higher than those provided by the gas company."
But that's not surprising, he continued, explaining that "accurately measuring these large sources is difficult using ground-based approaches like those used by the gas company to estimate the size of emissions from the facility."
Significantly, Hamburg wrote, the study comes days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft results of their updated accounting of methane emissions from the nation's oil and gas supply chain that shows that emissions are up 27 percent above the agency's early estimate.
"The more we know about methane emissions, the higher they get," he said. "The new findings show not just the massive scale of the oil and gas industry's methane problem, but also how critical it is to get the science right to both understand this source of a potent climate pollutant and reduce it. We know that cutting methane is one of the fastest, most cost effective ways to curb today's warming, and when combined with critical efforts to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, substantial climate progress can be made."
The Aliso Canyon disaster has prompted calls from members of Congress for the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to create the first federal standards for underground gas storage.
But with more than 300 such facilities across the U.S., the leak "is just the latest and most public example showing that we need to keep natural gas in the ground, not burn it," as Earthworks executive director Jennifer Krill wrote last month.
Indeed, Sierra Club's Michael Brune declared in a January blog post: "As long as we rely on fossil fuels for energy—and much of the methane that's leaking from Aliso Canyon was intended for California's power plants—we will be fighting climate disruption with both hands tied behind our backs."
"Only when we achieve 100 percent clean energy will we truly be able to safeguard our health, our environment, and our climate," he said. "For the unlucky people in the path of the next fossil fuel disaster—and they could be anywhere—that day can't come soon enough."
Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- These Are the Challenges Facing India's Most Sacred River ... ›
- Oil Spill Causes 'Major Disaster' for Ganges River Dolphins ... ›
By Kenny Stancil
An expert panel of top international and environmental lawyers have begun working this month on a legal definition of "ecocide" with the goal of making mass ecological damage an enforceable international crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
- Are the Amazon Fires a Crime Against Humanity? - EcoWatch ›
- 'Her Work Will Live On': Climate Movement Mourns Loss of Ecocide ... ›
After ongoing pressure from environmental groups and Indigenous communities, Bank of America has said it will not finance any oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, making it the last major U.S. financial institution to do so.
- Bank of America Sponsors Polluted Air and Chicago Marathon ... ›
- Youth Activists Hit the Streets to Protest Bank of America - EcoWatch ›
- Environmental and Economic Justice Communities Target Bank of ... ›
By Astrid Caldas
As we reach the official end of hurricane season, 2020 will be one for the record books. Looking back at these long, surprising, sometimes downright crazy past six months (seven if you count when the first named storms actually started forming), there are many noteworthy statistics and patterns that drive home the significance of this hurricane season, and the ways climate change may have contributed to it.
A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA's 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. NOAA
The updated 2020 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. NOAA
- Tropical Storm Theta Is Record-Breaking 29th Storm of 2020 ... ›
- Hurricane Delta Breaks Record for Earliest 25th Named Storm ... ›