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How Dangerous are Underground Natural Gas Storage Wells?

05/24/2017 | Environmental Research Letters

Our study shows that 1 in 5 active underground natural gas storage (UGS) wells in the U.S. could be vulnerable to catastrophic accidents, such as the massive methane leak we saw in Alino Canyon, CA—the largest single accidental release of greenhouse gases in U.S. history. The 118-day leak resulted in the evacuation of 5,790 households, and has raised health concerns for nearby residents due to potential exposures to methane and benzene.

Published in Environmental Research Letters, our research team—lead by C-CHANGE Research Fellow Drew Michanowicz—identified more than 14,000 UGS wells in 29 states, using regulatory data. The team says that the active wells that are most likely to leak are the estimated 210 repurposed wells constructed prior to 1917, before improved cementing practices were utilized. The majority of repurposed UGS wells (88%) are located in OH, MI, PA, NY, and WV.

Read the study



“A national assessment of underground natural gas storage: identifying wells with designs likely vulnerable to a single-point-of-failure.” Drew R Michanowicz, Jonathan J Buonocore, Sebastian T Rowland, Katherine E Konschnik, Shaun A Goho, and Aaron S Bernstein. Published 24 May 2017.  Environmental Research Letters, Volume 12, Number 6.–9326/aa7030.

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