Porter Ranch Gas Disaster


The Leak

The largest natural gas leak ever recorded spewed methane into the air from October 2015 to February 2016 in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. The leak was from an old oil well being used to store natural gas under high pressure at the largest natural gas storage facility west of the Mississippi.

A pipe inside the well cracked. So much gas was gushing out that:

  • It was increasing California’s emissions by 25%.
  • 10,000 local residents were evacuated, up to 5 miles away from the leak.
  • Planes weren’t allowed overhead for fear they’d blow up.

The Researchers

Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips and Bob Ackley of Gas Safety drove a high precision GIS-enabled natural gas analyzer down the roads around the gas leak from January 8-13, 2016 to create the video above.

The red shows where they drove. The height of the peaks shows the level of natural gas in the air. Where the gas spreads depends enormously on the direction and speed of the wind. These are just a few snapshots in time of the leaking gas (see more images).

Phillips and Ackley are experts in natural gas analysis, having mapped the gas leaks in numerous cities such as Washington DC, Boston, Cincinnati, and Manhattan. They will post their data soon, making everything open source for researchers and reporters.

Early Results

So far, we can see that natural gas levels are elevated 2 to 67 times the background level found in the area. Local residents complained of nausea, headaches and nosebleeds.  No one knows if there will be long-term health effects from the volatile organic chemicals found in the gas. There is conflicting information on the subject.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 12.12.15 PM

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