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.
“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. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748–9326/aa7030.
In the media:
- Remember That Catastrophic Natural Gas Leak in California? Yeah, That Could Happen Again (Cool Green Science—Blog of The Nature Conservancy)
- Study uncovers widespread leak risk for US underground natural gas storage wells (Phys.org)
- Older Pa. gas storage wells threaten methane leaks, study says (StateImpact, NPR)
- Could the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak happen in Ohio? New study examines the risk (Midwest Energy News)