Southern California Gas announced today that it has intercepted the leaking well at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility. The company was able to pump fluids into the well and has temporarily controlled the leak, according to a company statement.
"It's a good sign for sure," said Kelly Huston, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services. "We're basically waiting to see if it holds."
The company still must pump cement into the well and confirm that the leak has been permanently stopped. Once that is complete, the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources will confirm the well has been killed, and it will be abandoned.
Gas has been leaking from a well, called SS-25, since Oct. 23. The leak has forced thousands of people in nearby Porter Ranch to evacuate from their homes. After several failed attempts to control the leak, the gas company began drilling a relief well on Dec. 4. The well intercepted the leaking well at a depth of 8,600 feet.
"This is great news," said Paula Cracium, the president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council. "This is the first positive thing we've had happen since the leak started."
Residents of Porter Ranch began reporting health symptoms soon after the leak began, including nausea, headaches and bloody noses. The county Department of Public Health issued an order in mid-November requiring the gas company to pay to temporarily relocate residents.
In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission today, SoCalGas estimated the cost of responding to the leak at $250 million to $300 million. It also stated that 67 lawsuits have been filed against the company, and some 6,500 households had been relocated. The company also said that it has more than $1 billion in insurance policies to cover potential liabilities.
The leak has already resulted in stricter regulation of gas storage at the state level. Rep. Brad Sherman and others have also pushed for national standards for gas storage, and the California Legislature is pursuing a number of additional regulatory fixes.
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Many residents have urged state and local officials to shut down the Aliso Canyon facility, which is the largest gas storage facility west of the Mississippi River.
SoCalGas originally projected the relief well would take three to four months to drill. It ended up taking two months and one week. The drilling went well, but it could have gone very badly. Back in December, the relief well came within two feet of SS-25 at a depth of about 3,800 feet, creating a risk of puncturing the leaking well prematurely. The company had to back up, fill the well with about 200 feet of cement, and redirect its efforts.
The gas company also said that it would drill a backup relief well, in case the first one failed. However, the start date for drilling that well was repeatedly delayed, and it now appears the backup will not be needed.
Updated throughout as of 3:25 p.m.