Photo via Southern California Gas Co.
Photo via Southern California Gas Co.

A relief well being drilled at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility in an effort to cap a leak that has been spewing natural gas since late October is nearing completion, gas company officials said Monday, but they warned it will still take time to finish the job.

According to SoCalGas, the relief well has reached a depth of about 8,400 feet and is about 200 feet away from its target — the well that has been leaking since Oct. 23. Gas Co. officials said that while the relief well is nearly completed, the final phase of extending it to intercept the leaking well, then drill into it, will take some time.

Gas Co. crews are planning to pump fluids and mud through the relief well and into the leaking one, plugging the leak.

“Our team of experts has been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week since we started the relief well operations, and we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made so far,” according to Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity. “Our top priority remains the safety of those working on the site and the residents of the community.

“We have developed various contingency plans in case we encounter unexpected developments in the relief-well drilling process that could slow our current progress,” he said. “Our current schedule to control and stop the leak in February is consistent with the plan we have submitted to” the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

The company still hopes to have the operation completed by late February, or possibly sooner.

According to SoCalGas, after the flow of leaking gas is stopped using the fluids and mud, cement will be poured in to cut off the well from the storage reservoir, “stopping the leak at its source.”

The order compels SoCalGas to:

— Permanently shut down and seal the well and not inject gas into or withdraw gas from it in the future once the leak has stopped;

— Fund an independent health study to assess any potential health effects on residents;

— Fund continuous air monitoring to be conducted by SCAQMD and/or a contractor under the agency’s supervision;

— Develop and implement an enhanced leak detection and reporting program;

— Monitor the leaking well continuously with an infrared camera until 30 days after the leak has stopped;

— Provide SCAQMD with data on the amount of gas injected and withdrawn from the facility and information to calculate the total amount of methane leaked;

— Submit a plan to notify SCAQMD for notifying government agencies and the public of any reportable releases of air emissions, as defined in the plan;

— Report all odor complaints to SoCalGas since Oct. 23 and on an ongoing basis to SCAQMD; and

— Not use any odor suppressants or neutralizers in an attempt to reduce odors from the leak, unless approved by SCAQMD.

Residents of roughly 2,500 area homes have been relocated by SoCalGas, with about 1,500 other households awaiting relocation, according to the utility.

Students at two schools in the area have also been moved to other campuses away from the leak.

–City News Service

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