New gas leak near Porter Ranch eliminated – utility company

The Porter Ranch Estates housing community is seen below the hills where the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Field is located in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, California January 9, 2016 © Danny Moloshok
A natural gas leak discovered near Porter Ranch in an Aliso Canyon storage facility has been quickly eliminated by SoCalGas. A similar leak last fall wasn’t contained until February and sent over 100 metric tons of natural gas into the atmosphere.

The new leak, according to the utility company, was discovered on Saturday during a routine inspection, forcing company personnel to perform necessary inspections.

The Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) determined that the leak came from a “buried three-inch-diameter pipeline not associated with the well’s operation,” the utility company's spokeswoman, Melissa Bailey, said in a statement.

“This was a very small leak and did not present a safety risk to SoCalGas employees or nearby communities,” she continued, adding that the leak was isolated by repairs made Sunday.

More than 4,400 households were displaced after the Porter Ranch natural gas leak was discovered in October 2015. The leak, over the next 16 weeks, vented an estimated 107,000 tons of methane, making it one of the worst leaks in US history. In February, state officials announced that the leaking natural gas well in Porter Ranch had been sealed.

In December, an anonymous video captured with an infrared camera surfaced online, showing a cloud of methane gas reigning over Porter Ranch.

In fact, the leak was so large that NASA was able to capture it from space, marking the first time a leak from a single facility on Earth was seen by an orbiting spacecraft.

The contaminants in question from the leak are cause for concern. The leak primarily spewed methane into the air, which, although non-toxic to humans, is a strong greenhouse gas that could have an impact on global warming, according to Paul Wennberg, director of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science and the R. Stanton Avery Professor of Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering at Caltech. 

But other chemicals released by the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility include mercaptans, hydrogen sulfide, and benzene. Mercaptans and hydrogen sulfide can cause headaches and nausea, but benzene is known to cause cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The company is facing multiple lawsuits and investigations related to the Aliso Canyon leak. After a cleanup effort at Porter Ranch area, displaced residents started to return to their homes last month.