Blade report: Corrosion led to equipment failure in Porter Ranch gas leak

In a Santa Clarita court room February 2016, Southern California Gas Company attorneys Manny Abascal, left, and Nathan Hochman chat with Deputy District Attorney Yael Massry, right, before the arraignment of the Gas Company on misdemeanor criminal charges Wednesday at the Santa Clarita Courthouse in Valencia. Signal photo by Dan Watson

The 2015 gas leak in Porter Ranch was caused in part by a well casing that ruptured due to corrosion, according to an independent firm that submitted its findings to state officials Friday.

Microbes ate away at the metal in a 7-inch well casing, which, over time, made the metal thin, leading to the rupture, according to the firm Blade Energy Partners.

The firm also blamed the Southern California Gas Co. for not having done any follow-up inspection after previous leaks had been found.

On Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources announced that Blade Energy Partners finished its independent root-cause analysis of the leak that occurred at Aliso Canyon on Oct. 23, 2015.

The commission, in consultation with the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, selected Blade Energy Partners in January 2016 to perform an independent analysis of the leak’s root cause.

On Monday, about three dozen Porter Ranch residents met for an impromptu news conference at the gates of the Aliso Canyon facility.

Negligence

“(The Blade report) underscores years of negligence at that facility,” said Porter Ranch resident Matt Pakucko, a member of the group Save Porter Ranch. “This just brings it all to light.

“Governor Newsom should just shut down the facility by executive order,” he said.

Blade’s report was issued Friday to the public, and is available on the CPUC Aliso Canyon webpage at cpuc.ca.gov/aliso.

Christine Detz, spokeswoman for SoCalGas, was asked Friday for the utility’s response to the report.

“The news release serves as our official statement on today’s release of Blade’s report,” she wrote in an email response, referring to the CPUC release.

Utility’s response

“The release of this report marks an important milestone in helping the region and California move forward from the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak,” Chris Gilbride, spokesman for the utility, said in the aforementioned CPUC statement.

“The leak was an industry-changing event resulting in the development and implementation of enhanced safety regulations and practices,” he said in the release.

“Today, Aliso Canyon is safe to operate and Blade’s report indicates the industry-leading safety enhancements and new regulations put in place after the leak should prevent this type of incident from occurring again.

“While we are still reviewing the report released today, we appreciate Blade acknowledging SoCalGas’ full cooperation and support.

“The leak at Aliso Canyon was stopped on Feb. 11, 2016,” Gilbride said.

“In the months after the leak was stopped, SoCalGas and state regulators, who worked in consultation with independent experts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Labs, conducted a comprehensive safety review at Aliso Canyon.

The utility noted in its official response that the Blade report confirms SoCalGas complied with gas storage regulations in existence at the time of the leak and that the related compliance activities conducted prior to the leak did not find indications of a casing integrity issue.

In Blade’s opinion, Gilbride said as spokesman for the utility, there were measures, though not required by the gas-storage regulations at the time, that could have been taken to aid in the early identification of corrosion and that, in their opinion, would have prevented or mitigated the leak.

Other findings

The Blade report also found that:

  • SoCalGas lacked any form of risk assessment focused on well integrity management and lacked systematic practices of external corrosion protection and a real-time, continuous pressure monitoring system for well surveillance.
  • Updated well safety practices and regulations adopted by DOGGR address most of the root causes of the leak identified during Blade’s investigation.

Polluting

At the Santa Clarita Courthouse, Southern California Gas Co. pleaded no contest in September 2016 to polluting the air at its Aliso Canyon facility in Porter Ranch in October 2015, agreeing to pay at least $4 million in fines and upgrades to monitoring gas leaks.

For three days in late October 2015, SoCal Gas violated the state’s Health and Safety Code when it failed to report the release of “hazardous material” to the California Office of Emergency Services and to the local Certified Unified Program Agency, officials at the Santa Clarita Courthouse learned in September.

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