Natural gas leak polluting Porter Ranch in LA county since October 23, 2015

Earlier today, I found a link in one of my news feeds to a December 14, 2015 MarketPlace story titled A Natural Gas Leak With Seemingly No End. It describes an event near a community called Porter Ranch in Los Angeles county, California that has been in progress since October 23, 2015.

Here is the lede from that article.

A giant stream of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is blowing hundreds of feet into the air in Los Angeles County for the seventh week. The release cancels out hundreds of smaller efforts over more than a decade to clamp down on escapes of the gas, a priority because in the short term, methane is a far more powerful climate-warming gas than carbon dioxide.

A brief, but distressing television news story was published on November 14, 2015 by CBS Los Angeles. The station posted a copy of the story on their YouTube channel; as of a couple of minutes ago, it had been viewed 960 times in the month since it was posted.

The spokesperson made a statement about the source of the reported smells that I didn’t quite understand.

During what part of the natural gas processing, storage, transportation and distribution process is the odorant added? On first blush, it didn’t make sense to believe that gas spewing from a deep underground piping failure would smell bad because an odorant had been added to it. Perhaps some of the natural gas experts who read Atomic Insights can help me better understand the timing of odorant addition.

Natural gas deposits can smell bad because of natural mineral contamination.

Aside: That’s true of some water deposits as well. I have memories of camping trips where we stayed in places where the available well water smelled so bad we had to let it sit in an open container for several hours before we could stand to use it. End Aside.

Some natural gas deposits around the world are contaminated enough to be called “sour” gas. They can contain substantial quantities of deadly H2S (hydrogen sulfide), but this cannot be the case here.

The last sour gas leak I remember writing about occurred a dozen years ago in a small Chinese town named Gaogiao in Kaixian county near Chongqing. That one ended up killing more than 200 people and injuring about 7,000 others.

On December 9, 2015, Earthworks published a minute long silent video consisting of shots of the location of the leak in normal sunlight and then switching to a view using infrared equipment to make the methane visible. Here is the description posted with the video

Infrared video making visible the Aliso Canyon leak from Southern California Gas (Sempra) natural gas storage field that threatens the Porter Ranch community in Los Angeles County.

Earthworks video taken with a FLIR GasFinder 320 by an Infrared Training Center (ITC) certified thermographer.

That video has already been viewed more than 20,000 times.

I’m in information gathering mode. I don’t watch much television news, but I do read quite a few printed news sources most days. It is quite possible that I could have overlooked this story; there are days or even weeks when I focus on arduous tasks like playing with grandchildren.

Can you help me find coverage of this event so that I can understand how the public is being informed about the near term and long term risks?

Is this another shining example of the uneven attention paid to leaks associated with natural gas compared to leaks associated with nuclear energy?

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