A vent in an underground natural gas storage well in western Pennsylvania has been releasing massive amounts of global-warming methane into the atmosphere for more than 11 days, and attempts to plug the leak have so far failed. .
Owner Equitrans Midstream says its wells at the Leisure Mountain Storage Facility in a rural area about 1.5 hours east of Pittsburgh discharge about 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, according to initial estimates. Said he was doing
If accurate, the total emissions to date are 1.1 billion cubic feet, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from burning 1,080 rail cars with coal.
Pennsylvania’s environmental regulator has issued five company notices that may violate state law. As a precaution, the Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft to within a one-mile radius of the leaking well.
“There are no immediate public safety concerns,” Equitrans spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in a written statement Friday. plugging leaks reported to
Rager’s facility is located in Jackson Township at the center of the Marcellus Shale Formation, where gas production has surged since hydraulic fracturing was introduced over a decade ago. A resident who lives four miles away from the leak told his Associated Press on Friday that he could hear the roar of pressurized gas escaping from the well and could smell smoke.
Tracey Ryan, who homeschools her two young children about 3 miles away, said the air smelled of sulfur and the noise was so loud that she couldn’t sleep.
“I’m lying in bed at night and it sounds like a jet plane taking off,” said the 39-year-old mother. “It’s unreal, the noise that’s coming is constant. … Everyone keeps saying we’re safe. But being able to hear and smell it isn’t. ”
Methane, the main component of natural gas, is colorless and odorless. But when the gas is processed for transportation and sale, producers add chemicals called mercaptans to give it a distinctive “rotten egg” smell that helps alert people to leaks.
Methane’s global warming potential is about 83 times stronger than carbon dioxide from car exhaust pipes and power plant chimneys, and has been for over 20 years. Oil and gas companies are the largest industrial emitters of methane, and once released into the atmosphere, it disrupts the climate for decades, causing heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires and floods.
The new leak came on Nov. 11 when the Environmental Protection Agency updated its proposal for new rules aimed at reducing methane and other harmful emissions from oil and gas operations.
The Rager facility has 10 storage wells with a total storage capacity of 9 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Equitrans said Thursday that the leak stopped when workers flushed the leaking well, but early Friday morning the hiss of venting returned.
Cox warned that the estimate of 100 million cubic feet of natural gas leaking a day is preliminary and the company cannot provide an accurate account of the lost gas until an inventory verification study is completed. did.
Initial estimates put the Rager leak likely to be smaller, but it could rival the daily emissions from the worst uncontrolled gas leak in U.S. history. The 2018 explosion at an Ohio gas well owned by an ExxonMobil subsidiary and the 2015 disaster at the Aliso Canyon storage pit. facility in California.
The subpoena issued against the company by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection includes failing to properly maintain and operate the gas facility, causing public nuisance and creating a “hazard to public health and safety.” increase. The company was also cited for not providing “free and unrestricted access” to state inspectors.
State Environment Agency spokeswoman Lauren Camalda said when members of the state emergency response team first arrived at the site on Nov. 7, they were initially cordoned off and “access was restricted to essential personnel only.” It is restricted,” he said.
According to Cox, when the state team arrived, Equitrans contractors had to set up safety perimeters to avoid introducing an ignition source that could ignite the highly flammable methane that leaked into the air. was in the process of implementing
The gas comes from vents designed to relieve the intense pressure built up in the well and prevent blowouts. Cox said the company is now recovering gas from four storage wells to reduce overall pressure at the site. Efforts to plug the leak were expected to continue through the weekend, including an attempt to plug the well with concrete.
Nearby residents said a solution was not forthcoming.
Edana Glessner, who owns a wedding venue 5.6 miles from the site of the well, said the smell was nauseating and affected her business.
“I could hear it at the last wedding we went to,” she said.
Bisecker reported from Washington and Rubinkham from northeastern Pennsylvania.
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/national-international/leak-at-western-pennsylvania-gas-storage-well-spewing-methane/3429875/ West Pennsylvania gas reservoir well spews methane – NBC10 Philadelphia