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, Methane / 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, Methane / 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 »

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Vast Aliso Canyon leak reveals need for increased natural gas oversight

rp_Tim-OConnor-Nov-2014-214x300-214x300.jpgMore than a hundred frightened local residents packed a room at the Porter Ranch Community School for three hours last week, looking for answers about the foul stench caused by a massive natural gas leak nearby. Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility has been leaking vast amounts of noxious gas into the air for two weeks, with still no end in sight.

Environmental health risks abound

The familiar rotten-egg smell of mercaptan – which utilities add to the normally odorless gas – hangs in the air for at least a mile, a pungent reminder of the potential health, safety and environmental risks of the uncontained airborne spill. Natural gas is mostly methane; a powerful pollutant that contributes to smog formation and global climate change, packing 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years it is in the atmosphere. Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage site in the Western U.S., operating under intense injection pressures and holding huge amounts of methane. Read More »

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Within Reach: California’s Road to 50 Percent Petroleum Use Reduction Explained in Four Easy Concepts

rp_Tim-OConnor-Nov-2014-214x300-214x300.jpgCutting gas and diesel use in California has been a focus of Sacramento policy makers for years. After all, fuel combustion chokes our state with exhaust, releases a massive amount of global warming pollution, and undermines our economic security. And, at nearly 20 billion gallons of total use per year costing drivers over $50 billion a year – with much of the money flowing directly out of the state – it is no small challenge.

Despite many in-state efforts to cut gas and diesel use over the past decade, population and economic growth have erased many of the fuel use reductions achieved. This year, through dedication by Governor Brown and the legislature to fight climate change and make California stronger, there are promising solutions on the horizon. The solution making the biggest splash is SB 350 (De León) – a bill currently before the legislature – proposing (among other things) a statewide goal of 50 percent petroleum use reduction by the year 2030. With this ambitious goal, California can and will make real progress towards meeting its transportation needs using less oil for the years to come.

Understanding how California can meet a 50 percent petroleum use reduction goal by 2030, and why this goal is good for the state, hinges on four key concepts (explained in more detail here). Read More »

Also posted in Climate, General, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Politics, Transportation / Tagged , | Read 3 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, Methane / Comments are closed