California methane leak one of the worst environmental disasters in US

California methane leak one of the worst environmental disasters in US

The leak of natural gas observed by the Southern California Gas Company in its facility in Porter Ranch on October 23, 2015, is now the largest natural gas leak ever recorded in California, and it might be the worst environmental disaster since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

The leak is responsible for spewing large amounts of natural gas into the atmosphere at a rate of about 49 895 kg (110 000 pounds) per hour for the last two months.

Natural's gas main component is methane, which has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it enters the atmosphere. Methane is leaking out from the incidents site at a rate of about 1.75 million cubic meters (62 million standard cubic feet) per day which is equivalent to greenhouse emissions of 7 million cars.

“It is one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported,” said Tim O’Connor, California climate director for the EDF. “It is coming out with force, in incredible volumes. And it is absolutely uncontained.”

Video credit: Environmental Defense Fund

Residents are already suffering from headaches and breathing difficulties, according to media reports. More than 2 600 people had to relocate as well as two schools. According to a spokesperson for California's Air Resources Board, the leak is responsible for spewing the equivalent of eight or nine coal plants of methane into the atmosphere.

The gas leak is invisible to a naked eye. However, a jet of the gas plume can be observed on a new infrared video.

Scientists and engineers are still investigating the cause of the incident and working hard to find a way to contain the gas leak.

It will probably take another few months to detect the source and then repair the leak. The procedure will require drilling far from the tank to avoid causing fire and explosion in the area.

Featured image: First aerial footage of Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Leak, December 20, 2015. Image credit: Environmental Defense Fund

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