PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) – A plan is in the works to try to stop the Porter Ranch methane leak, one of the biggest environment disasters in ever recorded in California.
Southern California Gas Co., which owns the well that has been leaking gas since last October, announced Friday that it is building a system that will burn off some of the methane in a special incinerator.
Matt Pakucko runs Save Porter Ranch and lives near the leaking well. “It could blow at any second. Now, they’re going to light a huge fire there. What’s wrong with this picture?”
SoCal Gas insists there is no risk to public safety, saying the gas will be funneled away from the well and burned in an enclosed chamber. However, the company admits that workers will face some risk. Thus, they will not be allowed to carry mobile phones because of the threat of ignition.
“The only way that this can go down, if there’s air-dropping helicopters and planes circling Porter Ranch loaded and ready with a reservoir nearby ready and a line of fire trucks on every road and in every neighborhood in Porter Ranch permanently installed until that thing is resolved,” Pakucko insisted.
The Porter Ranch residents CBS2/KCAL9’S Jennifer Kastner talked to had mixed opinions.
“Burning off the excess methane, that doesn’t sound like an unreasonable solution to what’s going on,” Joel Johnson said.
“There’s a lot of mountain area up there with a lot of brown grass around. And things can burn completely, and it’s just awful,” Rodney Rodgers said.
“I wish that they would shut down the place. I think that would be the best solution,” Lena Garmanian said.
Also on Friday, actor/environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio took to social media to put pressure on SoCal Gas to stop the leak.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Porter Ranch. Famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich said it was a step in the right direction.
SoCal Gas is \waiting for the abatement plan to be approved by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which will meet Saturday at Granada Hills Charter High School. The hearing could take several days.
According to Kristine Lloyd, a project manager with the gas company, the utility plans to install a system that will capture a portion of the leaking gas, carry it a safe distance from the facility, remove fluids from the gas “and then either incinerate it or filter the odorant out of it.”
“The captured odorized natural gas will be combusted by thermal oxidizers that will safely burn the gas in an enclosed, ceramic-insulated chamber.” Lloyd said the system is being designed to be installed in two phases and could ultimately incinerate up to 20 million standard cubic feet per day.
The proposed abatement order would also require SoCal Gas to monitor the well with an infrared camera and fund an independent health study on the impacts of exposure to the leaking gas.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, said he met with SoCal Gas on Friday, pushing them to actively extract gas from the well as fast as possible. “Withdrawing the gas will reduce pressure, thus slowing the leak,” Sherman said. “It will facilitate stopping the leak as efforts to date have been thwarted by the intense pressure of gas coming up from underground storage. And maximizing withdrawal may drain the facility or at least reduce pressure to the point where gas stops leaking.”
AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood said exactly when the abatement process will begin depends on the processing of permits.
SoCal Gas is in the process of digging relief wells expected to allow the company to cap the leak. That process is not expected to be completed until February or March.
Thousands of residents have been relocated from the Porter Ranch area after complaining of health problems from the leak, and thousands more have requested relocation.
According to the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, Brown’s office has agreed to take part in a community meeting that will be held Jan. 15 at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.
The Gas Co. is a subsidiary of San Diego’s Sempra Energy, which has seen its stock price fall more than 15 percent since the leak was discovered in October.