“My Kids Aren’t Guinea Pigs,” Says Parent Affected by Massive Porter Ranch Gas Leak. German firm sues Baker Hughes over defective safety valves, steel in massive underground gas storage field under Etzel, Germany. Is Canada next, or already there?

California-style massive gas leak could happen in Canada too, experts say by Charles Mandel, January 4th 2016, National Observer

2016 01 04 Porter Ranch SoCalGas Co massive leak, earthworks, screen_shot_2016-01-04_at_5.45.14_pm

A view of the Aliso Canyon gas facility. Photo courtesy Earthworks

It is possible that Canada could experience a California-like methane gas plume, according to a number of experts. … “Such a leak could happen in Canada,” warned Mark Brownstein, vice-president of the climate and energy program for the U.S. non-profit, Environmental Defense Fund.

Brownstein said the group learned from its study of the oil and gas industry and methane emissions that “periodic upsets” take place at facilities from equipment malfunctions or because of poorly-maintained equipment and that those can result in significant emissions.

Operated by SoCal Gas, the Aliso Canyon storage facility provides power to the Los Angeles Basin. Because of the leak, some 4,000 residents of the city’s Porter Ranch neighbourhood have been relocated.

Large scale escape of methane is quite rare, one expert said. Other experts say the California methane plume is exceptional in its size.

Maurice Dusseault, a professor of engineering geology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said he believes there’s a very small probability of a similar leak occurring in Canada.

“Very small scale seepage is quite common. Large scale escape is quite rare,” he said.

In a 2014 report, Dusseault and his co-authors noted that since 1971, 27,000 well-bore leaks had been documented in Alberta. As well, an estimated 10 per cent of British Columbia’s oil and gas wells are leaking methane into the atmosphere.

The authors said wellbore leaks are a commonly overlooked problem and present real risks to the environment and public safety, and that the leaks have caused numerous documented cases of groundwater contamination as well as contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. 

“It’s been my experience that the regulatory agencies are very active in Canada and are more demanding of private industry than the regulatory agencies in the United States,” Dusseault said. “I think we have a stronger regulatory presence here in Canada.”

[Reality Check!

Courtesy of “Best in the World” Alberta’s very own “No Duty of Care” AER:

2015 09 23: AER’s EMERGENCY COMMAND CENTRE SET UP 2.5 HRS AWAY! DON’T AER COMMAND STAFF WANT TO DAMAGE THEIR BRAINS? Encana’s Fox Creek blow out spewing 20,000,000,000 litres/day sour gas & condensate: Where’s the regulator? Ex-Encana VP Gerard Protti = AER Chair; Ex-Encana Manager Mark Taylor = AER VP Industry Operations

2015 09 Fox Creek Alberta, is this encana sour gas & condensate incident, 20,000,000,000 litres leaking per day3

2015 09 Fox Creek, Alberta, is this encana sour gas & condensate incident, 20,000,000,000 litres leaking per day1

2015 09 Fox Creek, Alberta, is this encana sour gas & condensate incident, 20,000,000,000 litres leaking per day2

Crews still working to cap Encana natural sour gas well still spewing in Alberta after blowout ]

“My Kids Aren’t Guinea Pigs,” Says Parent Affected By Porter Ranch Gas Leak by the anonymous parent, January 4, 2016, The Science Parent

I am part of one of the 3,000 families displaced by theSouthern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) leak in Porter Ranch, but I consider my family lucky, because we’re finally safe. The latest reports say that an additional 3,000 more families are waiting to leave the area, and are still living in a zone that’s being called the biggest environmental disaster since the BP oil spill. Notice I say leave, not evacuate. I’ll get back to that.

On Oct 23, 2015, SoCalGas announced that their Aliso Canyon Storage Facility was leaking a combination of methane and mercaptan gases into my community, which is in Los Angeles, California. Methane is a natural gas. Mercaptan is the chemical the gas companies add to make it smell so people are warned when there’s a gas leak in their home.

At the time, they said the leak shouldn’t affect us, and at that point we didn’t know that symptoms of exposure to those gases are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of coordination. If we had, we would have realized that my family had been experiencing these symptoms for some time.

For weeks, our 3-and-a-half-year-old son, was lethargic and didn’t have his usual energy to do things. What normal three year old isn’t constantly running around and into things? My wife was complaining about nausea, and that her breathing was short and challenging. I had headaches every day when I came home from work. We never thought any of those things were related.

When Concerns Turned To Fear

While our own symptoms hadn’t raised any alarm bells, we knew something was wrong just before Thanksgiving, about one month after the announcement. In a short span of time, my previously healthy little girl (just 10 month old) had two nosebleeds, showed signs of shortness of breath, and one night her body began violently twitching. It was an alarming hard twitch-jolt nearly every minute for about 30 minutes, and through it all, she seemed disoriented.

Click here to read key facts about The Porter Ranch Leak - via Livescience.com

We called the ER right away and they told us to bring her in. Before we left we called a doctor family member to check in. We learned that ER wouldn’t be able to do much for seizures, unless it’s a grand mal, and based on what we were describing she ruled that out. We weighed our options and erred on the side of her health as the convulsions had stopped and we didn’t take her to the ER that night. After all, you don’t take a baby to the ER if you can avoid it, because it’s loaded with sick people.

Here we were with our baby, who was suffering for reasons we couldn’t understand, and we felt scared, helpless, and without answers. As a parent, it is your job to not feel any of those things, to protect your children, and have answers for them. But we didn’t have any answers, for her or for ourselves.

Taking Action

The next morning, we took her in. And after a bunch of tests and blood work, they said that nothing was wrong with her. The doctor recommended that we take her out of Porter Ranch as a test because there were so many variables that could cause the issue, and her thought was, take out the one big variable (her environment) and see what happens.

As a parent of a new baby, you don’t always know what’s going on, because you’re just discovering their body and who they are. So in my mind, her symptoms were very concerning and going to the doctor was more investigative work, and moving out wasn’t necessarily a final solution. After all, the Department of Health and SoCalGas both said that everything was safe, and that no action was required for residents living in the affected area.

So, we moved out the next day. And everything went away. Just to be sure, when we returned home after the appointment, I called Poison Control and the CDC and the representatives I both spoke to indicated that there can be other gases being expelled from these gas lines that weren’t being mentioned publicly at that time, such as benzene and radon.

No nosebleeds, no twitches, in my toddler. No shortness of breath or lethargy for the rest of the family.

By then I had amassed enough information to decide that I wasn’t about to use my wife or kids as guinea pigs and return to our home, so we made the move permanent. Now one month later? My wife has no symptoms. I have no symptoms. My son is back to normal. And my little girl is perfectly fine.

But every time we go back to the house to get mail, water plants? A mere 20 minutes in, all of the symptoms come back.

What I’ve Learned

Speaking to the agencies and doing my own research, I learned that the long-term effects of all four of the gases on developing kids hasn’t been tested, i.e. studies to assess the impacts on their growing brains and bodies haven’t been comprehensively done.

I did learn that in high concentrations of methane and mercaptan, the worst case scenario is asphyxiation, and the risks are higher for children as they’re closer to the ground (the gas is heavier than air), and they have more surface area in their lungs compared to their bodies, versus an adult. For adults, our bodies are big enough to deal with it, so it is a different situation for us. However…if there are indeed carcinogenic gases that are also being released, like thebenzene and radon, they are proven to cause cancer in long-term exposure.

As for kids, the belief is that even an acute exposure will affect them long term, though we don’t know how yet. Initially, SoCalGas and the Department of Health both say that the readings are too low to be considered dangerous. What I do know is that one of the symptoms of benzene exposure is body convulsions. Whether or not it’s absolutely that gas that caused the issues for my daughter, I do believe that the body is the best barometer when something isn’t right.

And as of January 3, 2015, the zone hasn’t been declared a disaster zone by the State of California. Which means we don’t have access to evacuation or disaster support beyond what Los Angeles County is able to provide. Some say it’s directly the result of California Governor Jerry Brown’s sister sitting on the board of SoCalGas. Others are pointing toward SoCalGas’willingness to pay to relocate families or provide air filtration devices  if they request it as sufficient (they were ordered to by the Department of Health). Regardless, there’s new data coming forward that suggests that SoCalGas deliberately put safety below their bottom line, because there were no safety valves installed on this facility where it counted. Because of that, it’s even more reason for me to stress – my kids are not guinea pigs. This facility needs to be shut down.Now a month later, my wife and I have become more defensive against things that might harm our children now, we’re not as open as we used to be in trusting what we’re told. As for other Porter Ranch residents in our situation, many in the same demographic with children, I believe we are all in the same boat. Many, many other kids of the families we’ve spoken to have had repeated unexplained nosebleeds, nausea, and lethargy. I stress to other parents in our shoes – if you’re not satisfied with an answer, and your gut is telling you there’s something wrong – keep probing. Reach out to a variety of sources, officials, and do your own research, because your experience is real, even if an agency says it’s not.

The Porter Ranch Gas Leak has taught me many things, but one thing stands out as a parent. Through these environmental disasters, you start to realize that your ability to protect your children-  especially the young ones who depend on you for everything – sometimes is out of your control. And that’s a scary, scary thing.

MUST READ! German firm sues Baker Hughes over steel used underground gas storage field by Bloomberg, September 22, 2015, Fuel Fix
Baker Hughes Inc. used the wrong kind of steel in safety valves installed in a $2.5 billion German underground gas storage field, where ruptures last year rendered some caverns inoperable and threaten to make the entire facility worthless, according to a lawsuit.

Triuva Kapitalverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH, which owns 47 natural-gas storage caverns in a massive salt-dome under Etzel, Germany, that warehouses 15 percent of the country’s gas supply, claims Baker Hughes supplied defective safety valves that “can crack wide open” if welded into place in a corrosive environment, according to a complaint filed Monday in Houston federal court.

The defective equipment represents “a grave risk of harm with potentially catastrophic consequences,” because a rupture might result in the release of natural gas into the atmosphere and a potentially large fire, Triuva said in the complaint.

Melanie Kania, a Baker Hughes spokeswoman, declined to immediately comment on the lawsuit.

The parts were allegedly made from a type of steel normally used in short-term deep-water jobs, where systems are threaded and bolted together. The material is unsuitable for permanent underground systems, as it is difficult to weld properly and welding causes microscopic changes that leave the pipes prone to corrosion cracks, Triuva said.

Baker Hughes’s safety valves were installed in 2009 and 2010 in 30 of Triuva’s caverns. Two of the valves ruptured in February and November of last year, allegedly along defective welds. Those caverns are now unusable and the safety of the remaining gas storage chambers has been put into question, unless the faulty parts can be switched out for ones made from the right steel, Triuva said.

“It is a dangerous material to use in a welded installation,” Mark Holscher, a lawyer who represents the German firm, said in the complaint. “But rather than spend the time, effort and money” to design a safe system using proper materials, Baker Hughes put Triuva’s “property, other individuals and the public at risk” by selling safety valves it knew were “at serious risk of rupture or blowout” if welded.

Baker Hughes managers and engineers met with Triuva in Germany from October to May, but the Houston-based oilfield supplier has so far “refused to repair, replace or remediate the defective products or assume any responsibility for their failure,” Holscher said.

If German mining regulators yank Triuva’s licenses because they decide the caverns can’t be safely operated, the company says its entire $2.5 billion Etzel investment might become “effectively worthless,” the company said.

The case is Triuva Kapitalverwaltungsgesellschaft Mbh v. Baker Hughes Inc., 15-cv-02744, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston).

[Refer also to:

Regulatory Failure, Corporate Failure, Inspection Failure, Integrity Failure, Casing Failure, Safety Failure, Greed Trumps All: Regulator & SoCalGas Co. knew casing was corroding, failing with major leakage problems at Porter Ranch gas storage facility more than a year before catastrophic leak ]

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