Methane emissions from the 2015 Aliso Canyon blowout in Los Angeles, CA

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Science  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1317-1320
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2348

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The magnitude of a major methane leak

The Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility outside Los Angeles, CA, houses enormous natural gas reserves. One well at the site experienced a blowout in late October 2015 and began leaking gas until it was sealed in February 2016. Over the course of 13 flights in the region, Conley et al. sampled the air column and determined daily release rates of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) and ethane throughout the leak. The methane release rates were nearly double that of the entire Los Angeles region combined. Thus, single vulnerabilities can have major implications for state and federal climate policy.

Science, this issue p. 1317


Single-point failures of natural gas infrastructure can hamper methane emission control strategies designed to mitigate climate change. The 23 October 2015 blowout of a well connected to the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility in California resulted in a massive release of natural gas. Analysis of methane and ethane data from dozens of plume transects, collected during 13 research-aircraft flights between 7 November 2015 and 13 February 2016, shows atmospheric leak rates of up to 60 metric tons of methane and 4.5 metric tons of ethane per hour. At its peak, this blowout effectively doubled themethane emission rate of the entire Los Angeles basin and, in total, released 97,100 metric tons of methane to the atmosphere.

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