California Methane Leak the Largest in U.S. History

Scientists who analysed the natural gas leak near Los Angeles, believe that it was the largest methane leak in American history with over 100,000 tonnes of methane was released before it was successfully stopped. That’s a lot of gas.

Climate change activists will want to know what that means. Well, the amount of methane released was about the same as the annual carbon emissions of 500,000 cars, which translates to about 2,617,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. According to the researchers, it’s had a bigger effect on climate change than the 2010 Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill.

The leak was first detected on the 23rd of October 2015, from a single well connected to a storage hub for 114 other wells. The gigantic storage facility is the fifth largest of its kind in America. Every day, a balloon the size of a football stadium could have been inflated with the amount of methane being emitted. The leak was finally sealed on the 18th of February, after seven failed attempts by the facility’s owners, Southern California Gas Company.

The scientists conducted their research through 13 flights, where they took air samples from within the methane cloud.

It can take 12 years for methane to break down in the atmosphere. So, the 100,000 tonnes is going to remain in the atmosphere, generating extra heat for us for a looong time.

The leak has caused thousands of Porter Ranch, California residents to evacuate because many were complaining of headaches and nosebleeds.

Check out the aerial footage of the leak:

 

“In terms of the methane release, Aliso Canyon is by far the largest,” said the lead author of the study Dr Stephen Conley, University of California, Davis, “It had the largest climate impact; it beats the BP oil spill.”

“The state’s response to Aliso Canyon was teed off by the first measurement we took, at that point no-one had any clue that this was 50,000kg per hour of gas,” said Dr Conley, “That to me is a huge oversight, especially with the Paris Climate Agreement. How can we commit to monitor and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions without measuring our biggest emitters?

“These sort of leaks will continue to happen. Let’s try to be continuously looking for them so we can seriously talk about reducing our emissions.

He makes a good point. Ordinary citizens often get blamed for the pollution problems plaguing the world, yet nobody has bothered to pay attention to the corporations, which really have no incentive to prevent leaks as long as the cost of lost gas is less than the cost to regularly maintain the pipes.

Sources: ScienceBBC, EPA, Live Science

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