Underground Gas Storage: Professional Gas Migration Experts Sound the Alarm - Housing Near Gas Storage Site Could Be Formula for Disaster



Grassroots Coalition
11924 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Contact: Jeanette Vosburg
(310) 636-3518


















PLAYA DEL REY, CA, (June 6, 2001) -- Several leading experts in the field of underground gas migration and environmental engineering have issued a Public Health and Safety alert regarding the location of the proposed Playa Vista residential community on the west side of Los Angeles. According to public records, this development is located above the Playa del Rey oil field that is used by Southern California Gas Company as a high-pressure underground natural gas storage facility.

SoCalGas records indicate that billions of cubic feet of natural gas are being held at extremely high pressure in the partially depleted oil field that spans the area.

In their recently published book titled, "Gas Migration" (Butterworth-Heinemann Publishers), George V. Chilingar, PhD, (Professor of Petroleum and Environmental Engineering, University of Southern California), John O. Robertson, Jr., PhD (Registered Petroleum Engineer), and Bernard Endres, PhD, (Oil and Gas Environmental Consultant), warn that housing should never be built over these high-pressure sites because of the problem of uncontrolled gas migration through the geological substrata.

"Of the approximately three hundred sites in the United States where flammable gas is stored in the ground," Dr. Endres stated, "I could not find one over which a municipality was actively promoting the building of housing. There is just too great a risk of catastrophic accident."

M. Rasin Tek, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, and one of the foremost experts on underground gas storage systems and gas storage inventory analysis, recently completed a detailed analysis of the Playa del Rey

storage site. He determined that the rate of gas loss due to uncontrolled migration and/or seepage into the atmosphere is approximately one hundred million (100,000,000) cubic feet per year.

According to Dr. Tek, "gas storage in old oil fields is particularly vulnerable to explosion since gas leaks up the outside walls of all oil wells. The extreme pressures used to force the gas into these layers of rock and clay, along with the natural tidal flow (at Playa del Rey), all contribute to gas migration, high pressure and the danger of explosion." Records indicated that there are over 200 abandoned oil wells in the Playa del Rey field. The location of some of these is unknown.

"As recently as last January, gas from a similar storage site outside Hutchinson, Kansas, migrated under the town and caused an explosion which killed two people and injured others," Dr. Endres warned. "Eyewitnesses described seeing gas geysers shooting into the air for days. And only last year, ten adults and children were killed at a campground in New Mexico when leaking gas from an underground pipe exploded into a fireball that was seen twenty miles away. The heat from the blast was so intense, it fused sand into glass and melted camping equipment."

National Transportation Safety Bureau records show that each year there are explosions in and around high-pressure storage sites or pressurized pipes that carry flammable gases.

"Perhaps the most spectacular gas explosion in recent memory occurred in 1992 near Brenham Texas," Dr. Endres continued. "Gas from an underground storage facility formed a cloud which exploded and devastated a square mile area. It killed three, injured twenty-three, and caused millions of dollars in damage. One reporter described ‘the tops of trees ripped off and branches lying splintered and scorched on pastures that hours before had been green and spotted with wildflowers.’"

According to Dr. Endres, it was fortunate the Brenham explosion occurred in a rural area. "If it had been a densely populated development such as Playa Vista," he continued, "hundreds if not thousands would have been killed or injured and property damage would be incalculable. For the City of Los Angeles to approve housing so near the SoCalGas site is highly questionable and I urge the City reconsider. This is no place for people to live."



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