For Immediate Release, February 2, 2016
Contact: Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364, email@example.com
Analysis: California's New Gas-storage Rules Weaker
Than Petroleum Industry's Own Suggested Practices
Fracking Could Continue in Storage Wells Without Industry-recommended Safety Measures
LOS ANGELES— Emergency gas-storage rules proposed by California officials in response to the catastrophic Aliso Canyon leak are even weaker than the petroleum industry’s own recommended practices for gas-storage wells, according to a new analysis released by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Operators could even continue fracking these old storage wells without performing industry-recommended monitoring for gas leaks caused by such high-pressure injections. The emergency rules, currently under consideration by the state’s Office of Administrative Law, could go into effect as early as this Friday.
“These dangerously weak rules don’t even measure up to the oil industry’s own minimal safety suggestions for gas-storage wells,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, an L.A.-based attorney with the Center. “Despite a massive gas leak that’s driven thousands of people from their homes, Gov. Brown’s regulators won’t even force gas-storage operators to follow their own industry’s recommended practices — let alone take the strong measures needed to truly protect Californians from these dangerous facilities. Allowing companies to continue fracking these old, corroded wells puts people and the state in serious danger.”
The only expert document cited by the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources as the basis for these emergency regulations is the American Petroleum Institute’s list of recommended practices for gas-storage wells — and state officials are not even following all of the industry’s recommendations.
Among the ways in which California’s gas-storage rules would be weaker than industry recommendations:
- Fracking without monitoring: The regulations appear to allow operators to continue fracking gas-storage wells without performing post-fracking inspections and testing recommended by API. The API’s gas-storage handbook, for example, suggests that the “operator should inspect adjacent active and plugged wells during or following a stimulation or hydraulic fracturing treatment to verify integrity maintenance when a well located within the reservoir area and buffer zone is being treated at pressures exceeding maximum storage reservoir pressure.” There is no such requirement in the state’s proposed regulations.
- Poor annular gas monitoring for leaks: California’s proposed regulations also fall short of API’s recommendations for monitoring for the presence of “annular gas” — one problem behind the current leak from the Aliso Canyon well. The proposed regulations would limit testing annular gas pressure to find leaks — in which gas escapes the well casing — to “when a well . . . is not being used for production” — while the API handbook suggests no such limitation. The Center suggests production be limited to pipe only.
- Corrosion monitoring and evaluation: The API handbook recommends corrosion monitoring as part of routine well integrity monitoring, but California’s proposed regulations just require corrosion monitoring protocols be included in yet-to-be-developed risk management plans.
Fracking is commonly used in Aliso Canyon gas-storage wells and has occurred near SS-25, the leaking well spewing thousands of tons of methane into Los Angeles neighborhoods, according to official state documents.
“These rules won’t keep us safe,” Golden-Krasner said. “Gov. Brown should immediately halt fracking in gas-storage wells and send his officials back to drawing board to craft strong safety regulations that go far beyond the petroleum industry’s weak recommendations.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.