Aliso Canyon Gas Well Blowout Is Largest Methane Leak In U.S. History

Posted: Feb 28 2016, 11:11am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Aliso Canyon Gas well blowout Is Largest Methane Leak in U.S. History
Homes are pictured on a hillside in Porter Ranch, California, January 6, 2016. California Governor Jerry Brown on January 6, 2016 declared a state of emergency in the Porter Ranch area due to the continuing leak of natural gas from the Aliso Canyon storage facility operated by the Southern California Gas Co. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN ALCORN / AFP / JONATHAN ALCORN (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ALCORN/AFP/Getty Images)

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A new study of the University of California confirms that the Aliso Canyon Gas leak is the Largest Methane Leak in U.S. History.

The Aliso Canyon natural gas well blowout released more than 100,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane before the well was plugged Feb. 11, 2016 according to the first study of the event. The results confirm that it was the largest methane leak in U.S. history. The leak single handily destroyed efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The University of California, Irvine joined the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, UC Davis and others to show that during the peak of the Aliso Canyon disaster, enough methane poured into the air every day to fill a balloon the size of the Rose Bowl.

“The methane releases were extraordinarily high, the highest we’ve seen,” said UCI atmospheric chemist Donald Blake, who has measured air pollutants across the globe for over 30 years. A co-author of the study, he also collected surface air samples near homes in the adjacent Porter Ranch residential area.

The analysis of these samples found above-normal levels of several potentially dangerous compounds present in natural gas, including benzene, toluene and xylenes. “Some of the volatile organic compounds have been linked to health effects if exposure is long-term,” Blake said.

The disaster will substantially affect California’s ability to meet greenhouse gas emission targets for the year, the researchers noted. “Our results show how failures of natural gas infrastructure can significantly impact greenhouse gas control efforts,” said NOAA’s Tom Ryerson, a lead scientist on the study.

Fellow lead scientist Stephen Conley of Scientific Aviation and UC Davis said his first readings, in early November, were so high that he rechecked his gear. “It became obvious that there wasn’t anything wrong with the instruments,” he said. “This was just a huge event.”

According to the study, total emissions during the 112-day gas leak were equal to one-quarter of the annual methane pollution from all other sources in the Los Angeles Basin combined. The disaster’s impact on climate will be equivalent to the effect of annual greenhouse gas emissions from over half a million cars, it says.

The details of the study have been published journal Science Magazine.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
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