California Dream 2.0

After the Aliso Disaster: Less Gas Storage, More Clean Energy Through Increased Market Efficiency

By: Mark Brownstein & Tim O’Connor4157619250_29ac89191b_o

The nearly four-month disaster at the Aliso Canyon storage facility owned by Southern California Gas Company has spurred widespread calls to close the sprawling underground reservoir, and cast intense scrutiny on the 13 other similar facilities around California. But others, including Governor Jerry Brown and key state agencies, say the facilities may be needed to keep the electric grid running reliably.

Ironically, one reason for dependence on this fossil fuel is California’s renewable energy boom.

As things currently stand, there aren’t enough responsive resources on the grid to simultaneously manage the large daily swings in consumer electricity demand typical in California and swings in renewable energy output due to variations in time of day and weather.

A more robust grid in combination with innovative energy storage and energy management technology will eventually reduce these swings, but may take decades to fully deploy.  Until then, fast-acting gas-fired generation is necessary for balancing system operations. This has become a rallying cry for SoCalGas and the rest of California’s oil and gas industry in the wake of Aliso Canyon. Read More »

Also posted in General, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Infrared Camera Reveals Huge, Wafting Cloud of Methane over California’s Aliso Canyon

Methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is a serious problem for our climate and communities, but it’s one most people aren’t even aware of. That’s because, while methane is a powerful pollutant, it is colorless, odorless and invisible to the naked eye.

But residents of Southern California’s Porter Ranch neighborhood had their eyes opened wide to the methane problem when a natural gas storage well in nearby Aliso Canyon ruptured and created a massive leak right next to their homes – an incident detected by residents in October from the putrid smell of mercaptan, an additive utilities use to more easily detect natural gas leaks.

Natural gas is made mostly of methane, and when it is released unburned, it has a warming power over 84 times that of carbon dioxide over 20 years. So, leaking or intentionally emitting unburned natural gas – which happens not just through malfunctions but often during routine production and transportation of oil and gas – can do major climate damage. The California Air Resources Board estimates that Aliso Canyon is pumping out methane at about 50,000 kg per hour, or about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day – that’s the same short-term greenhouse gas impact as the emissions from 7 million cars.

Now, on day 48 in a very uncertain timeline of the one of the largest U.S. natural gas leaks ever recorded, infrared cameras are giving us a true glimpse at the size of this man-made methane volcano. Looking at side-by-side images of Aliso Canyon taken on Dec. 9 using an everyday camera and one equipped with infrared technology reveals just how blind we are to this kind of pollution:

Aliso canyon 2 Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Data Reveals Climate Impacts of the Gigantic, Ongoing Gas Leak in California

Aliso CanyonLast week, it appeared that the Southern California Gas Company was close to containing the flow of natural gas coming from a monster leak at its Aliso Canyon storage field in Northridge, California.  Now, four weeks after it started, the leak persists, and data released Friday, from the California Air Resources Board shows that the uncontrolled emissions of methane, the primary component of natural gas, is having significant climate change impacts in addition to affecting public health.

Using data collected from airplanes flying near the leak site, and supported by data gathered from vehicles, satellites and nearby air monitoring platforms, the Air Board’s initial estimates show the rupture at Aliso Canyon has released methane gas with an estimated warming impact over the next 20 years equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions of 2.6 to 2.9 million metric tons.  While these estimates are likely to be refined over time and compared to facility estimates of lost gas, conducting aerial methane surveys to calculate emissions rates is a proven scientific measurement method.

These are staggering numbers, even in their preliminary form. Read More »

Also posted in Natural Gas / Read 4 Responses

California Retirement Funds Put $500 Billion Worth of Weight Behind Strong Methane Standards

CA investorsToday, a group of major investors from across the country, who manage more than $1.5 trillion in assets, issued a letter calling for strong rules to limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Among them are California’s two biggest retirement funds – CalPERS and CalSTERS, which together manage nearly $500 billion in funds on behalf of approximately one and a half million members.

The powerful statement issued by the group of investors calls out the “serious threat” methane poses to climate stability, saying that it compelled them to support action on the issue to avoid near term threats to “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”

California’s Leadership Role

Although the investors’ letter focuses on national rules, the relevance to California cannot be overlooked as the state has, over the past year, taken a leadership position on regulating harmful methane emissions from oil and gas operations. For example, California is currently developing new rules at the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and a new statewide plan and regulations are being developed at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy, General, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

To Meet Methane Emissions Duty, California Must Look Beyond its Own Borders

By: Tim O’Connor, Director of California Climate Initiative, and Amanda Johnson, Legal Fellow

Methane MoleculeCalifornia is in the midst of multiple regulatory efforts to reduce methane emissions from natural gas and oil operations throughout the state. It’s a key opportunity to make a real dent in the state’s climate impact since methane, the primary component of natural gas, packs over 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released unburned.

Methane emissions in-state and out of state

One of the key efforts going on in the state is the development of new rules by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions from natural gas transmission, distribution, and storage, the systems that deliver gas to homes and businesses. And, at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a new statewide plan to cut short lived climate pollutants from sources across the state is in development, as are new regulations to reduce emissions from oil and natural gas production, processing, and storage in California. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Natural Gas / Read 1 Response

Under the Wire: EDF Welcomes SoCalGas Leak Maps

rp_Tim-OConnor-Nov-2014-214x300.jpgA great thing happened today for the environment and people of California. On the very day we released new maps measuring methane leaking from natural gas lines under Los Angeles-area streets, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) announced they would begin publishing their own maps showing the locations of leaks they find on their system.

It is a positive move that brings the company a big step closer to complying with the California law requiring them to publish not only the whereabouts of known leaks, but also the amount of methane escaping (which their newly announced maps do not). The public has a right to know where and how much harmful air pollution is being emitted by SoCalGas and any other company in California.

It is precisely the ability to accurately measure this leak rate quickly and cost effectively that makes Environmental Defense Fund’s mapping project so important for the natural gas utility industry, and it is the reason we have spent nearly three years working with Google Earth Outreach and researchers at Colorado State University to pilot this important technology (which we plan to make available on an open source basis).

Methane is a potent climate pollutant, packing 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. That means it is both a serious challenge, and a major opportunity to make a big dent in our total greenhouse emissions quickly. It’s also an issue that has mostly been ignored until recently. But now California is leading the country in requiring gas utilities to both measure and reduce the amount of methane they are leaking.

We commend SoCalGas for taking their first big step on the road to a solution.

Also posted in Climate, General, Natural Gas / Comments are closed