Environment & Science

31 Aliso gas wells taken offline as testing continues

File: The entrance to the SoCal Gas facility where a gas leak that started in October began and forced thousands of residents to flee from Los Angeles suburb Porter Ranch, pictured on Jan. 22, 2016.
File: The entrance to the SoCal Gas facility where a gas leak that started in October began and forced thousands of residents to flee from Los Angeles suburb Porter Ranch, pictured on Jan. 22, 2016.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

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Southern California Gas Company has taken more than one-quarter of its wells offline at the same natural gas storage field where a disastrous leak last year forced thousands of Porter Ranch families to leave the area.

The Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, just north of the Porter Ranch community, has been barred from injecting or withdrawing gas for several months. To return the field to normal use, the company must show that its wells have passed a battery of tests, or shut them down.

SoCal Gas is now working against the clock to complete those tests because local power plants rely on gas from these wells. Those power plants face the prospect of power outages this summer if the field remains shut down. A bill known as SB380 that is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature would permit SoCal Gas to resume operation of the wells once the tests are complete and state regulators certify that the field is sound.
 
So far, 31 of the 114 gas wells have been removed from service, according to a report SoCal Gas, which was filed Friday with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, known as DOGGR.

Some of the sidelined wells failed the first round of basic temperature and noise tests, according to the report. Others were pulled out of service months ago as a precaution because they are old, dating back to the 1940s. The well that failed last year, leading to the leak and mass relocations in Porter Ranch, was drilled in 1953.

SoCal Gas said it has put 101 wells through the first phase of testing, and 58 of those wells had obtained DOGGR approval. That does not mean the wells failed, as there is a time lag between when SoCal Gas submits its test data and when DOGGR approves it, said spokesman Donald Drysdale.

Of the wells that passed this first round of testing, six have undergone a second phase of testing, which is more exacting. One well has received DOGGR approval so far.

SoCal Gas executives have said in public hearings that they expect to complete enough tests by early August to get the gas field functioning again and reduce the potential for power outages. Company representatives did not respond to questions from KPCC about the latest testing report.