50,000 kilograms or 110,000 pounds of natural gas are spewing out of the Aliso Canyon, California gas leak. It could take another 3-4 months to stop according to officials.
It is not the single biggest source of methane in California, equivalent to 8 or 9 coal powered power plants.
First spotted on October 23 the leak was caused by a casing that failed. The gas storage, operated by Southern California (SoCal) has not been able to determine why the failure occurred. Attempts to stop the gas from flowing out by pumping liquid into the well have been unsuccessful allowing the leak to continue.
It is not that SoCal Gas is not trying. They have enlisted several engineers, including some that helped contain the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They are tasked with devising a solution to fix the leaking well. But according to a spokesperson for the company a solution is not likely before late February as reported by Motherboard.
It seems the only option is to drill all the way to base of the well, more than 2,500 meters or 8,000 feet underground, causing the delay. The source of the leak is likely that deep and the new drill site will have to be far from the leaking well to prevent igniting a disastrous explosion.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is tracking the volume of the gas being released and monitoring the effects to the environment. They are focusing on the amount of methane that is being released into the atmosphere. A major component of natural gas, the EDF states it is a “powerful short-term climate forcer, with over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released.”
In order to show the release of the natural gas (which is colorless and invisible to the naked eye), the EDF used special infrared cameras to capture the eruption and post the video below.
The environmental concern with methane is that it absorbs the Sun’s heat, thus warming the atmosphere. It is also associated with physical ailments in humans such as headaches and breathing difficulties. These concerns have forced two nearby schools to temporarily relocate in to protect the students and faculty from the effects of the gas.