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

SoCalGas knew of corrosion at Porter Ranch gas facility, doc shows by Mike Reicher, December 30, 2015, Los Angeles Daily News

Southern California Gas Co. knew its pipes were corroding and failing at a worsening pace more than a year before the massive Porter Ranch methane leak, a document shows.

In a November 2014 state regulatory filing, the utility said it needed funds to inspect and repair old wells on a more systematic basis and warned of heightened risks under its current inspection regime.

“Without a new inspection plan,” SoCalGas Director of Storage Operations Phillip Baker wrote, “SoCalGas and customers could experience major failures and service interruptions from potential hazards that currently remain undetected.”

In written testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission, Baker described a reactive maintenance process that hinted at major leakage problems underground. Baker argued the company needed to invest in inspection, maintenance and repairs. State regulators must approve any rate increases to pay for the investments. The 2014 proposal is still pending.

While one state official said it doesn’t appear that SoCalGas violated any regulations [Would it matter if the company had? Are regulators anywhere in the world willing to “enforce” their regulations instead of just mass deregulating and pimping unenforceable, voluntary “best practices” and letting companies do what they want?], the filing indicates the company acknowledged its inspection shortcomings and shows that SoCalGas primarily reacted to leaks once they were detected but didn’t actively search for corroded pipes on a regular basis.

“You have an antiquated regulatory program, and you have a utility saying they have documented increased corrosion,” said Tim O’Connor, director of California Oil and Gas at the Environmental Defense Fund. “How much individual responsibility do these utilities need to apply to their operations?”

… It is estimated that about 1,200 tons of the greenhouse gas is being pumped into the air each day, according to the California Air Resources Board.

In its filing, SoCalGas documented increasing issues with safety valves and leaks at its 229 Southern California storage field wells during recent years. Structural integrity issues necessitated three major overhauls in 2008. In 2013, nine wells had to be overhauled. In total, the document describes 36 wells that required similar major repairs. Fifteen others, through ultrasound tests, were found to have casing corrosion or mechanical damage.

DOCUMENTS: Supporting documentation for Southern California Gas Company’s 2016 general rate case

Officials identified two key problems with the aging wells: internal mechanical wear from when a well was originally drilled and water, sand and gasses such as carbon dioxide that have eroded well parts.

[Companies and regulators have known for many years this is an extremely serious, universal problem with few taking appropriate action beyond talking.

2006:

2006 09 IEA 2nd international wellbore integrity meeting, cover

2006 2nd well bore integrity meeting, first key conclusion, clearly a problem well bore integrity world-wide

Slide from Ernst presentations

2013:

2013 10 16 17 Past ERCB Board Member Theresa Watson Presents in Colorado on Alberta Regulations and Serious Wellbore Integrity Problems

[Driving de-regulatory change?]

2013 10 Past ERCB Board Member Theresa Watson Presents in Colorado The Skeletons are Coming out of the Closet

Half of the company’s 229 storage wells were more than 57 years old as of July 2014, the document said, and 52 wells were more than 70 years old.

Wells start to break down after 40 years, said Robert Schaaf, president of RPS International, a Huntington Beach-based petroleum engineering consulting firm. [But, companies and regulators around the world promise us the multi-layers of casing around their wells never leak, there are never safety worries for us and our families and farms – not even when the gas is deadly with H2S, and groundwater is never contaminated with industry’s methane, except “naturally,” because their wells never leak!] 

Besides Aliso Canyon near Porter Ranch, the company maintains three natural gas storage facilities in Southern California: one in Playa Vista near Los Angeles International Airport, another near UC Santa Barbara and another in unincorporated Los Angeles County near the city of Valencia. Aliso Canyon is the largest of the four.

“SoCalGas operates in compliance with relevant regulations which are set up to ensure the public safety,” company spokeswoman Melissa Bailey said Wednesday in an email. “We conduct daily observations to ensure everything is in proper working order and weekly checks of pressure readings to confirm their condition.”

While the company doesn’t specify which wells were found leaking, the three examples it gives are from Aliso Canyon. In 2008, after routine pressure testing came back abnormally high, crews discovered casing corrosion as deep as 1,050 feet. In 2013, workers found underground leaks in two Aliso wells, although there was no indication at the surface. [There seldom is, which is why it’s so easy for regulators, politicians, research councils and companies to blame nature and citizens when industry’s leaking “natural” gas contaminates community and private drinking water wells] SoCalGas workers have observed corrosion in other Aliso wells, the report said.

***

[MUST READ!

From Save Porter Ranch et al recent Class Action legal filing:

2015 Map of Socalgas Co injection wells, half mile to residents at Porter Ranch

This gas is not from the region, but instead the gas is injected underground by Defendant Southern California Gas Co. (So. Cal. Gas) into illegally permitted wells. In September of 2015, So. Cal. Gas injected 5.7 billion cubic feet of gas underground near the residents of Porter Ranch. So. Cal. Gas was injecting what is believed to be similar amounts of gas in October when one of the injection wells suffered a massive well failure and blowout, leading to the leak. The gas from this So. Cal. Gas injection has now leaked into the air and into the water table.

2015 Socalgas Co leaking injection well schematic, Porter Ranch

2015 Map of Socalgas Co injection wells at Porter Ranch

3. No one has yet quantified the impact of this gas leak on the community with respect to the transfer of this gas through the underground water. So. Cal. Gas has likewise not explained who is assisting to prevent contamination to the water impacted by this massive well failure for the agencies and individuals who may use this water.

Save Porter Ranch is also demanding the State Oil & Gas Supervisor immediately disclose all test data received from So. Cal. Gas regarding the chemicals being released. DOGGR’s November 18, 2015 Emergency Order required So. Cal. Gas to provide this data, and thus, DOGGR should immediately upload this information to the internet. DOGGR’s failure to provide this information only increases the concern that DOGGR may be protecting So. Cal. Gas at the expense of the residents of Porter Ranch.

The injection well that is leaking is one of 154 injection wells in this oil field including
93 active gas storage wells. DOGGR’s prior emergency order did not order So. Cal. Gas to immediately stop injection activity in this field, and DOGGR’s failure to act is increasing the risk to the community. Indeed, there are 93 active gas storage wells injecting into the Sesnon-Frew reservoir, the same reservoir as well 03700776. (See Attachment 4, List of Aliso Canyon Injection Wells.) The risks are compounded because there are at least 22 gas storage wells that are idle and thus can serve as conduits (or straws) transporting the gas from one area to another.

The most recent data shows that in one month So. Cal. Gas injected over 5.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the Sesnon-Frew reservoir. (See Attachment 5, DOGGR Gas Injection Data.) The difficulties faced by So. Cal. Gas in controlling the high-pressure leak in one injection well are surely exacerbated by any continued high-pressure injection of billions of cubic feet of natural gas into the same shared gas-storage reservoir. Of greater concern, the continued injections create a serious public health risk for the families in Porter Ranch.

On October 8, 2015, DOGGR admitted that upwards of 78% of the injection wells in Los Angeles County allowed injections without protecting from the migration of the gas or waste into idle wells nearby. (See Attachment 6.) None of the injection wells appears to comply with the UIC regulations under 14 CCR 1724.7 and 1724.9 – including the lack of an area of review analysis [Encana failed to do that too, before diverting fresh water from Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers, and failed to collect appropriate isotopic fingerprinting analysis on gases from Encana perf’d and frac’d zones, and much much more. The regulators did nothing but cover-up and protect Encana.] required to ensure zonal isolation of injectate. DOGGR records also suggest that DOGGR has not required So. Cal. Gas to properly report all injection pressure as required by 14 CCR 1724.10. (See Attachment 5.)

In addition to gas injection wells, there are 11 other injection wells operated by So. Cal. Gas in this oil field. These other injection wells include active waterflood and waste disposal wells. DOGGR also issued permits for these injection wells without requiring that So. Cal. Gas follow the UIC regulations protecting the public, and again, there is an incomplete record of injection pressure data. (See Attachment 7, DOGGR Water Injection Data.)

[How many frac quakes or waste water injection caused-quakes caused by Socalgas Co has the storage/oil field endured, cumulatively putting at risk the corroding, failing casings? Has the company injected too much, too fast, with too much pressure and greed into their waste injection wells and water flood wells, as was done in the 80’s causing the LA Dress for Less explosion and massage damages and injuries? With family of the Governor on the Board of Socalgas, will a proper investigation with complete record disclosure take place?  How fast will the company gag and settle the lawsuits? With the magnitude of public harm likely at stake, will the courts allow the records to vanish with the gag and settlement?]

In the rare instances where So. Cal. Gas reported injection pressure, it appears that these wells may be injecting wastewater at or above the formation fracture pressure. (See Attachment 3, p. 2 (So. Cal. Gas estimates that the formation fracture gradient is 0.80 psi/ft); Attachment 7 (demonstrating wastewater injection at 1,500 psi in a well with a top perforation at 3,764 feet); Attachment 8, Excerpt from June 2011 Horsley Witten Group DOGGR Class II UIC Program Review (discussing maximum allowable surface pressure calculation).) Given the unknown degree to which the Aliso Canyon formations have already been damaged, our clients request that DOGGR’s order blocking all injection activities also block water injection at least until So. Cal. Gas obtains control over the leaking gas. [Emphasis added. Excellent and reasonable request. What oh what will the regulator be ordered to do, with family of the Governor on the Socalgas Co Board!?]

***

Their own documents show this place is deteriorating, and now it’s a huge problem,” said Matt Pakucko, president and co-founder of the community activist group Save Porter Ranch,

The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermic Resources, or DOGGR, requires a pressure test of the well casing tubing every five years, and a mechanical integrity test every two years. Steve Bohlen, the former head of DOGGR, has said repeatedly it doesn’t appear SoCalGas was guilty of any violations.

“It really has to be on these companies to make sure these facilities meet the best industry standard [What good will a “best” voluntary, unenforceable industry standard do?] for operations and maintenance,” said O’Connor from the Environmental Defense Fund, “because they can have catastrophic consequence if let slip.” [All around the leaking world?]

In the regulatory filing, SoCalGas proposed “state-of-the-art inspection technologies” to systematically evaluate wells and to prioritize repairs. If approved by the CPUC, the company would conduct visual camera tests, casing and tubing inspections, noise and temperature surveys and pressure tests. It would focus on the oldest wells in closest proximity to the public or located in environmentally sensitive areas.

The plan would begin in 2016 and last for six years at an estimated cost of about $30 million per year.

SoCalGas expects a decision on the rate proposal early next year. [Emphasis added]

[Past posts on the out of control mess:

EPA opens probe into Southern California Gas Co. leak above Porter Ranch; San Fernando Valley assemblyman will hold state hearing

2,258 families in temporary housing, 111 staying with family or friends, 3,162 in placement process. Growing environmental disaster in LA: Monster industry-created methane leak revealed in new aerial infrared video. What happens if SoCalGas can’t fix their leak? Was the leaking gas frac’d? Is it radioactive?

Industry’s Massive Natural Gas Leak Into Porter Ranch Community to Be Declared Local State of Emergency, More than 1,000 households moved out, another 1,379 leaving

L.A. city attorney sues SoCal Gas over gas leak making Porter Ranch homes “unlivable.” Why isn’t Alberta’s Attorney General suing Encana & AER for illegally frac’ing a community’s drinking water supply, then engaging in Charter violations, fraud to cover it up?

First 30 families relocated out of California Gas Co’s catastrophic gas storage leak in community of Porter Ranch, then 170, then 300, then 800, now 600 more asking to leave

Public and Corporate Health Fraud? Where’s the regulator? Huge natural gas leak in California has impact of burning 300 million gallons of gasoline, is sickening residents, could take months to fix, class action lawsuit filed ]

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