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California Considers Shutting Down the Huge and Leaky Natural Gas Storage Site Near Porter Ranch

The enormous leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near the San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch has been spewing methane since late October, causing problems for about 3,000 local households who've been relocated, and for those who've not yet been able to leave (many have suffered health problems). A relief well won't be up and running for a while longer, and officials have already said that the well will have to be shut down. But Southern California Gas has 111 wells at Aliso Canyon; it's the second-largest natural gas storage facility in the West. So now the California Public Utilities Commission is starting to explore what would happen if Aliso Canyon were shuttered for good, the LA Times reports.

Some of the big questions are whether or not the gas company would still be able to meet the demands for gas at peak times of the year and keep up with service requests if their largest storage field were taking out of commission. A CPUC rep tells the Times that this inquiry is a way to figure out what all the options are for the future of the storage field. The director of safety and enforcement at the CPUC said in a report last week that the commission was exploring first how to deal with gas "reliability issues" now and possibly into the summer without the Aliso Canyon facility; then they'd be looking at how to deal with those issues if Aliso Canyon is offline into the next winter "and beyond."

At this point, it seems like it would complicate gas service for all the customers in Los Angeles if this huge facility were taken offline. "Existing pipelines lack the capacity to make up such a shortfall" and the gas company's other storage areas wouldn't likely be able to get enough gas to customers quickly in the event of a sudden demand. A lack of gas could mean blackouts in places where natural gas is used to generate electricity. US Rep. Brad Sherman says he doesn't think the gas company could deal with the high demands of summer without the Aliso Canyon field in operation. "If it is feasible, it ought to be shut down -- but I'm not holding my breath. That's because they've created a facility that is literally too big to fail."

This news comes as Southern California Gas Company's thrown the community a bone, moving to temporarily plug and inspect 18 of their aging, 1950s-era wells, the Daily News says. The inspection will be done by the gas company and its own contractors, with results turned over to the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. Post-inspection, says a gas company rep, "an assessment will be made on future course of actions, including a determination if the well is safe to put back into service." SoCal Gas was aware of potential problems with the leaking well, according to their own 2014 report for state regulators.
· Commission probing permanent closure of Aliso Canyon gas field amid massive leak [LAT]
· SoCalGas will inspect 18 older gas wells at Aliso Canyon to evaluate safety [LADN]
· Disastrously Leaking Gas Facility Near Porter Ranch Will Have to Shut Down One of Its 111 Wells [Curbed LA]
· Attempts to Plug the Enormous Porter Ranch Methane Leak Have Made Things Way Worse [Curbed LA]