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PR CAC Investigates Air Measurement and Mitigation

The first Porter Ranch Community Advisory Committee meeting of 2016 started off with a report from Dr. Jorn Herner, Chief of the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB). The ARB is in the process of measuring the amount of methane that has been released into the environment using flights over the community that provide instantaneous rough estimates. Developing a total calculation will take some time. They believe that about two million metric tons have been emitted. In a letter to Governor Brown, SoCal Gas committed to mitigating the amount of methane released. At the beginning, gas was leaking at a rate of 60,000 kilos/hour. The last measurement was on December 23 with a rate of 30,000 kilos/hour.

Herner then explained that the ARB has placed methane monitors at two households. The monitors measure the methane constantly, calculate an hourly average and upload that information to a server. At the house on Laughton Way, located at the east end of Porter Ranch adjacent to Aliso Canyon, the results are mostly in the normal range of 2 ppm with occasional increases. At the house on Mariposa Bay Lane, which is more directly in the downwind plume, the results can fluctuate more wildly with the wind ranging from 2-20 ppm. See today’s results: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/aliso_canyon/community_methane_monitoring...

Benezene Risk

The Committee spent some time questioning these results and benzene measurements. Herner noted that natural gas is about 94% methane. To measure benzene, a sample must be taken in a bottle and evaluated at a lab, which takes more time. They are looking at how to provide real time benzene results. The amount of benzene in the air has decreased significantly over the last 55 years. In 1960 it was 17 ppb. Now the average is closer to 5 ppb. “I would be more worried about living in Los Angeles in 1960 than in Porter Ranch today, regarding benzene,” stated Herner.

Chair Paula Cracium told Herner that she was concerned about the oily mist that is covering houses, cars, gardens, and vegetables people are growing. She asked for a report on what’s in it as residents are concerned for their health and want to know how to clean it off.

Jason Marshall, Chief Deputy Director of the California Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) and his team were the next speakers. Among them, one of them is at the well site every day and they are part of morning and evening calls to coordinate efforts with other agencies during this incident.

Would the Safety Valve Have Prevented This?

They described the history of the well and the incident detailing the increasingly more aggressive approaches taken to kill the well. Of particular interest was that on November 13, the third attempt to kill the well with brine, north of the well a small vent opened in the ground. Whereas the gas had been emanating out of a number of smaller paths through the ground all around the well, after the kill attempt, all the gas was concentrated coming out of one area. The vent increased in size with further attempts. This surface vent caused them to decide not to conduct any more attempts to kill the well after the fifth attempt on November 25, lest further attempts compromise the wellhead.

A committee member inquired about the safety valve that has been inoperable since 1979. Marshall explained that he did not know that having the valve would have made a difference. The valve allows gas to flow (or not) between the 2 7/8 inch inner tubing and the 7 inch casing using vertical slits in the inner tubing. The valve does not stop the flow of gas up the inner 2 7/8 inch pipe.

Jarrod DeGonia, County Supervisor Antonovich’s Field Deputy, expressed concern that usually when a property owner upgrades their property they are required to bring the rest of it up to current standards. SoCal Gas was not required to do that by upgrading their wells to the latest technology when they secured approval for their turbine replacement project.

John Lee, Councilmember Mitchell Englander’s Chief of Staff, inquired if new wells are required to have shut off valves. There was some discussion around what technology would prevent a reoccurrence. Marshall noted that the Governor’s order called for all wells to be tested before the facility could be put back in service. Current testing is focused on identifying whether there is a leak in progress. In the future testing may include evaluating the likelihood that a well could become compromised.

Relief Well Progress

Jimmie Cho, Senior Vice President for Gas Operations and System Integrity and Gillian Wright, Vice President, Customer Service provided an update on the progress of the relief wells. The second well is being required by DOGGR as insurance in case the first relief well doesn’t work, not because anything is wrong with the first relief well. The pad for the second relief well is graded. They planned to begin drilling January 24, but have pushed that date out to February 1, due to the rain. The drilling rig is located in Huntington Beach and they plan to begin moving it to the Aliso Canyon field this weekend.

The first relief well has reached 6,000 measured feet, which is not the same as vertical depth. The well is about 20’ away from the leaking well. The relief well will continue to approach the leaking well and follow it down to the bottom to intercept it. The drilling speed decreases with depth to insure accuracy. This well is on schedule to reach the leaking well late February. The primary weather concern is wind as drilling is completed using three 30’ sections, which become difficult to control in high winds, which sometimes reach 80 mph.

Mitigation Efforts

SoCal Gas is working on a plan to capture the gas as it emanates from the ground and has submitted a permit request to DOGGR. The idea is to capture and burn it. They are also adding 8” thick filter screens to collect the oily mist and prevent it from being disseminated into the community.

The Odex plan has not been abandoned. The equipment is onsite and SoCal Gas is continuing to test its viability. They are also testing using water to reduce the odorant, as it also dissolves mercaptans to a certain extent. Rain has a similar effect. Wright continued to confirm that they would not use Odex without consulting and informing the community.

Role of Aliso Canyon Storage Facility

In this process Cho explained their concern about safety and reliability of service. The Aliso Canyon Storage Facility serves Los Angeles and Orange County. Cho outlined how essential the storage facility is by revealing that about December 28, when Los Angeles has a record low of 36, SoCal Gas customers used 4 billion cubic feet in one day. Only 1.5 of that was available via pipeline. 2.5 billion cubic feet were supplied from the Aliso Canyon Storage field. Without the storage field, customers would not have had enough gas to stay warm.

Some customers want to know can’t we just empty the storage field and send the gas to Bakersfield or somewhere…The gas flows high to low from east to west. It’s not like a power grid, you can’t just send it back up to where it came from. The use of gas and source of energy fluctuates rapidly with the weather. Each day SoCal Gas has an estimate of how much gas will be needed, but then as a sunny day turns cloudy and renewable solar energy sources decrease, demand for gas increases and SoCal Gas scrambles to respond.

Equal Priority for Relocation

During the final question and answer period Wright announced that all residents within a five mile radius of the leak would have the same priority for relocation addressing concerns that residents of Chatsworth were being treated like second class citizens in the search for housing.

Status of Business Claims

Rana Ghadban, Executive Director of the Chatsworth/Porter Ranch Chamber of Commerce, lamented that her planned business claim workshop was cancelled because SoCal Gas had changed their minds on participating. Each claim is being processed on its own merits according to Wright. Cracium questioned SoCal Gas, “Do we need to get another order to process these claims to help businesses?”

Cracium shared that she was working with the Governor’s office to hold a community meeting in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for details on that meeting.

The next PRCAC meeting is Thursday, January 14 with a report on public health. Livestreaming will be available.

Minutes provided by the PR CAC


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The Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council is an organization that is officially certified by the City of Los Angeles to increase our influence with City lawmakers and departments to improve our community.

The PRNC came about as a result of Los Angeles City Charter Reform and interested stakeholders in our community. The Board is elected by stakeholders and holds monthly meetings, usually on the first Wednesday of the month. The agenda is emailed to those who subscribe (see the green box in the upper corner), on our website here and posted at 11280 Corbin Avenue, Northridge, CA 91326 on a bulletin board facing Corbin street.

The Board is comprised of volunteers who want to help you make Porter Ranch a better place to live, work and grow. We can't do it for you, but we can do it with you.

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