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California Gas Leak Largest Methane Leak in US History

Dean Musgrove / Los Angeles Daily News Via AP / Pool

Crews from SoCalGas and outside experts work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon facility above the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 9. 2015.

Dean Musgrove / Los Angeles Daily News Via AP / Pool

The Aliso Canyon storage facility released more than 100,000 tons of methane before it was finally plugged on February 11th. The findings were published in the journal Science. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that affects the climate.

At its peak, the blowout doubled the rate of methane emissions from the entire Los Angeles Basin. 

“If you stuck a balloon over the wellhead by the end of the day it would fill up the Rose Bowl stadium, so that’s our perspective of how much gas is coming out, or was coming out,” says co-author and UC Davis pilot Stephen Conley.

Such a leak can also overwhelm a year’s worth of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Tom Ryerson with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the disaster points to the importance of real-time airborne monitoring of leaks.

“The ability to actually find them, quantify them with an aircraft, or remote sensing or satellites and then address them quickly and fix them and account for them in the greenhouse gas reductions worldwide is really going to be of more and more importance as we go forward,” says Ryerson.

Emissions from the Aliso Canyon leak are equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than half a million cars.