Just a few months after the Southern California Gas Company finally plugged up the worst methane leak in US history at its Aliso Canyon storage facility in the Valley, there's now a whole lot of concern about the potential for future leaks at another SoCal Gas site, in Playa Del Rey.
As the Los Angeles Business Journal reports, state regulators have conducted dozens of inspections at this smaller facility over the past few months and officials are concerned about the declining condition of wells that are even older than the ones at Aliso Canyon. Three small leaks have already been uncovered, and though the first two were easily repaired, a third involved a more serious issue and the well had to be shut down.
The wells at the Aliso Canyon storage facility are, on average, about 52 years old, according to a report by KPCC. Prior to the enormous leak that released about 100,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere, SoCal Gas submitted a concerned report to regulators about its aging, corroding pipes, and asked for a rate hike to pay for repairs. The hike hasn't come yet, and many active wells continue to deteriorate with time. The facility at Playa Del Rey is perhaps most in need of attention, with eight active wells dating back to the 1930s.
Problems have already emerged at the Playa Del Rey facility. In 2007, SoCal gas was hit with a lawsuit claiming gas had seeped into the water table, and in 2013 an exploded vent stack sent flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. Given the location of the facility, less than two miles from both LAX, Loyola Marymount University, and the many homes and offices of Playa Vista, it's possible that a large leak could have consequences far greater than even those seen at Porter Ranch, where thousands of residents were forced to temporarily relocate due to headache-inducing and possibly carcinogenic fumes.
Nine wells at Playa Del Rey are outfitted with subsurface safety valves to prevent this type of accident, but most have surface safety valves (the valve at Aliso Canyon had been missing for decades)—former state regulator Anneliese Anderle tells the LABJ that those surface valves would not be enough to contain a major leak. The utility company claims they will have safety features on all valves upgraded by the end of the year. Of course, they also promised to completely offset emissions from the Aliso Canyon leak and they're not off to a good start on following through with that claim.