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California tools failed to distinguish leaks for decades



(Reuters) – The California tool responsible for a massive four-month leak near Los Angeles 2015 failed to investigate dozens of leaks over decades at the natural gas storage facility, according to a report released by the state on Friday.

The long-awaited report found that the groundwater corroded a 7-inch well cap and did so and caused the leak. Since Southern California Gas Co., a unit of Semper Energy, had failed to investigate and analyze leaks since the 1970s, the implications of such corrosion, leading to the event in 2015, found the report.

The report was commissioned by two government agencies, the California Public Utilities Commission and the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, and is run by a third party, Blade Energy Partners.

The agency says that the report would contribute to informing their own investigations, which are expected to be completed this year. These probes can ultimately lead to sanctions against the company, according to the CPUC.

More than 60 cap extensions have occurred since the 1

970s at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility and were not investigated, the report found. Blade said there were integrity issues in 40% of the 124 storage wells it was studying for the report.

SoCalGas, as the tool is known, said it conformed to the storage regulations for natural gas in place at that time. Updated well-established safety regulations since 2015 largely address the causes of the leak, the report says.

"The leak was an industry change event that resulted in the development and implementation of improved security regulations and practices," the tool said in a statement.

As of October 2015, the faulty well flushed more than 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the atmosphere until it was sealed 111 days later in February 2016. The leaked gas was sufficient to deliver about 20 million US homes a day.

The event gave rise to screams and health risks in neighboring communities and became a public relations nightmare for the tool. More than 8,000 households and two schools were moved under the leak.

SoCalGas is still facing 394 trials, including the 48,500 applicants.

State regulators limited the amount of gas SoCalGas can inject into the Aliso Canyon plant and said that the tool can only withdraw gas, when other alternatives are not available.

Many residents and government officials want SoCalGas to close the facility.

State Secretary Henry Stern, representing the communities around Aliso Canyon, called the company "sloppy" and the report "alarming."

                    


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