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SoCalGas Says Massive Gas Leak Expected To Be Plugged By Late February

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An overhead photo of the site of the gas leak at SoCalGas' Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch (Photo by Earthworks)
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SoCalGas says they're ahead of schedule in their efforts to stop the massive gas leak near Porter Ranch.On Monday the utility issued a press release saying "the company expects to stop the leak by late February, if not sooner." Crews began drilling a relief well on December 4 and expect to hit the bottom of the well, at a depth of about 8,500 feet, sometime next month. Previous estimates had SoCalGas fixing the leak at their Aliso Canyon facility in March.

"Our team of experts has been working around the clock since we started relief well operations in early December and we're pleased with the progress we've made thus far," said Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity for SoCalGas, in the release. "Our schedule to control and stop the leak in February is consistent with the plan we have submitted to state regulators."

Once crews manage to stop the leak, SoCalGas says the well, known as SS-25, will be taken out of service.

The well has been continuously emitting methane since the leak was discovered on October 23, but the most recent readings published by the California Air Resources Board on January 12 shows that the emission levels have dropped over 60 percent since they peaked in late November (after a blowout at the site).

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Despite the announcement, critics of the utility remain skeptical. "It doesn't give much comfort to me, and I don’t think it'll give much comfort to the residents," Alexandra Nagy, of the consumer watchdog Food & Water Watch, told the AP. "They've been misleading since the beginning." To date, almost 3,000 households in nearby Porter Ranch have been relocated after residents started getting nausea, headaches, and nosebleeds from the mercaptan additive in the gas.

SoCalGas also announced on Monday that they decided to cancel plans to capture the leaking gas and burn it off. According to the L.A. Times, the Public Utilities Commission had raised concerns that the machinery that would be used in the process could spark a massive explosion.

On Tuesday, the law firms representing the residents affected by the leak released a new infrared video shot on January 11, showing the gas continuing to billow over Porter Ranch: