The largest natural gas leak ever recorded (and perhaps most underreported as well) is jeopardizing health and causing evacuations for thousands of Southern California residents. The massive gas leak is erupting from an energy facility in Aliso Canyon, California, causing one of the biggest environmental disasters in US history. And perhaps most shockingly,two months into it scientists and engineers still can’t figure out a way to contain the leaking gas.
Residents have reportedly fallen ill from the noxious fumes which have been spewing into the air at the rate of 110,000 pounds per hour since October.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), who released the shocking footage of a geyser of methane gas coming out of the Earth, described it as “one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported” and “absolutely uncontained.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has gone so far as to ban aircraft flights over the area as a precaution, in response to fears that fumes from the gas leak could be ignited from the air.
On October 23rd the Southern California Gas Company discovered a leak in its natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch, a neighborhood about 25 miles northwest from downtown Los Angeles. Experts are not 100% certain, but believe that a well casing failed deep below the surface. It will take at least several more months to find the source and repair the leak, which requires careful drilling far from the tank itself to avoid igniting the gas and causing an explosion.
For two months the leak has been spewing natural gas into the atmosphere at up to 110,000 pounds per hour. In its raw form, natural gas is a climate-destroying gas that 195 countries have been trying to keep out of the atmosphere, according to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, which is tracking the amount of gas leaked in real time:
Methane—the main component of natural gas—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. Methane is estimated to be leaking out of the Aliso Canyon site at a rate of about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day. That’s the same short-term greenhouse gas impact as the emissions from 7 million cars.
Local residents are suffering from headaches, breathing difficulties, nosebleeds and nausea. Already, two schools have been relocated for the 2016 semester and the leak has triggered an exodus from the community of Porter Ranch.
These historic events are potentially devastating for our planet. The California Air Resources Board estimates that the leak is so large that it has increased the West Coast state’s greenhouse gas output by 25 percent. And reportedly, SoCal Gas has said that plugging the leak would take at least three more months.