From: Tom Williams
Sent: Fri, Oct 18, 2019 1:07 pm
Subject: Re: University City Syn. Dr. Tom Williams
TO: Patricia McPherson
FROM: Dr. C.T. Williams
Subject: Gas Emissions from Ballona Wetlands and Vicinity
RE: Emissions from Constructed Wetlands, West of Lincoln/South of Jefferson
I have visited the Ballona Wetlands Site in 2009-2010 and have viewed at least five sites of “Bubbling Gases” east and west of Lincoln which have continued to persistently “bubble” for more than 90 days. I participated in the ground gas monitoring by Engineering Science along the Wilshire and Fairfax corridors of and for the RTD/MTA Metro Rail Red Line during the mid 1980s, was the Environmental Supervisor for RTD-Red Line Phase 1 Construction Management, and conducted various other gas-related projects in the vicinity of the Salt Lake Field (including Wilshire Courtyard) for Parsons Corporation and Engineering Science. I was designated as team leader for the LAFD at the explosion/fire incident at Ross-Dress-for-Less Store (near 3rd and Fairfax/Farmers Market) for gas drilling and extinguishing the fire and gas sources, which was done by venting at >20psi. I also consulted with the LAFD and City of Los Angeles for the Gilmore Bank gas event in 1986 across Third from the Ross Store site. During 2000-01, I was employed through MHA Consultants for the CPUC review of environmental and other consequences from divesture of Los Angeles Region gas storage facilities owned by the Southern California Gas Co., including the Montebello and Playa del Rey Gas Storage Facilities. These and other related studies led to the decommissioning of the Montebello Field and considerable changes for the Playa del Rey Field.
I have reviewed and visited various gas emission sites in the Playa Vista/Playa del Rey area and offer the comments below. Review of site inspections and available documents and recordings are summarized below:
Continuous persistent emissions to the same surface locations
Large diameters of bubble just below surface of >5ft in free standing water
Captured bubbles suggest gas pressures of >0.5psig (>12 inches/1ft water pressure)
Review of GeoScience’s Report and Tables
Little or No detectible CO2 and H2S
Detectible Helium, Ethane, Propane, and Toulene levels
C14 age of >55,000 years before present
Flow rates and pressures
“Seepage Gas” discrimination, parameters, and criteria
Thermogenic and Biogenic Gases discrimination, parameters, and criteria
Marine/Non-Marine Biogenic Sources/Conditions discrimination, parameters, and criteria
Gas Modifications During Migration 5ft 2psi 50ft 20psi
All well depths, feet below surface 500ft 200psi >5000ft 2000+psi
Important issues from documents
Two 1930s blow-outs during drilling – 1-above 1821ft, oil&gas at 1140-50ft; 2-above 5960ft
Original well was incompletely and inadequately abandoned
Could not be cleared/cleaned out below 155ft
Indeterminate amount of casing, drill stems, and fishing gear left in hole
Cement with 32 bags un-rated strength
No verification of use of 72# Drilling Mud especially after drilling difficulties
Re-abandonment found “dehydrated” drilling mud
Playa Vista Re-abandonment
Seven cement plugs of less than 20% of bore, total length >800/<1000ft / <6000ft
“Clay based drilling mud” of unspecified weight and character
Experienced at least one “kick” (gas release, not oil spill)
Experienced gas release at well surface (successfully stopped with surface seal)
“Bubbles” are clear indicators of large gas volumes being released that if produced by a microbial source- as indicated in the GeoScience Analytical report- would have required a large body of ancient gas-producing organic materials---such a source has which have not been found in all available borings and explorations in the area. The large persistent bubbles, observed in the marsh, also indicate a large pressure sources rather than in contrast to sporadic bubbling which would be more common in “biogenic” sources and large organic materials. These large bubbles form at depths of >5ft and thereby reflect a higher pressure regime near the sources of much higher pressures than would be expected from a “shallow source”. Locational persistence would also indicate a clear, trackable pathway to a large body of gas-producing materials.
Gas formation from biogenic and thermogenic sources are well understood, but the modifications of produced gas through/along various natural media/pathways is a far more complicated process and requires some rational explanation, rather than deriving fanciful complicated production systems. The little or no detectible CO2 and H2S indicate a relatively clean source of gas as- in contrast- most gases from land fill, peat bogs, and other relatively recent and older sources contain detectible percentages of CO2 and H2S.
As in the Ross Store explosion, the gas emissions and flames had no odor, no color, and no smoke (indicating associated gases). Similarly most in place associated gas formation in SoCal has generated moderate to high levels of Sulfur (as a percentage for sour-gas, H2S).
Biogenic gases do not contain- as identified in the isotopic analysis of the bubbling deep seepage area- detectible levels of Ethane, Propane, and Toulene; however thermogenic associated gases may contain all and more. SoCal terrestrial, freshwater, and marine biogenic and thermogenic gases do not contain recorded cases of Detectible Helium, although methane coming from the Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas High Plains gas fields commonly have detectible levels and were used for helium production for WWII.*
*SOCALGAS’ gas storage operations within the Playa del Rey oilfield has historically stored piped in gas from Texas/Oklahoma and the Kansas High Plains thus, helium has been utilized as a marker for identifying migrating or leaking SOCALGAS’ storage gas.
The C14 age of >55,000 years before present – identified in the GeoScience Analytical report as the age of the bubbling gases- does not means much, other than the gases are not formed from the muck on the bottom of the lagoon, which is a reconstructed wetland and relevant organic materials were not imported for the back filling. >55,000 years is the highest reliable date range that C14 can be used for dating and thereby gases.
“Seepage Gas” does not mean anything other than the method of occurrence (= “bubbling gas”; better to use “The Gas”) but appears to be used to avoid any indication of its origin, e.g., biogenic, or thermogenic. No parameters, criteria, or references are provided for the definition of “Seepage Gas” and thereby any such further reference should be eliminated.
As in the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon releases, few know what happens to gases and associated “liquids” when released from a contained producing/storage zone into more permeable and less pressurized formation, pathways, or other environments. Gas/oil mixtures are assumed to fractionate much as in a refinery distillation tower with lights gases/liquids moving differently from heavier gases/liquids. With formation pressures of 200-3000psi, considerable changes, usually deletions of reactive and heavier compounds, could be assumed to happen to migrating gas on its way up through formations and differing waters of >55,000 years old (50-8000+ft depth).
DOGGR, SoCalGas and others have not offered evidence, of any nature, which would remove the SoCalGas storage zone gases or higher associated field gases as prospective sources of gases reaching the surface. Since SoCalGas has a the source most consistent with the currently available information, they should be considered, until proven by contrary facts, as to be responsible for the source of the gases (with helium and heavier hydrocarbons).
Other related field documents also raised issues related to the migratory pathway for the gases reaching the surface near Lincoln and Jefferson. During the drilling of the University-Syndicate well, two 1930s blow-outs occurred: 1-above 1821ft and 2-above 5960ft; in addition a non-commercial oil and gas zone was encountered at 1140-50ft and could be associated with the #1 blow-out. Records for the well showed that the original well was not developed for production and was incompletely and inadequately abandoned (with 32 bags un-rated strength cement for more than 5000ft of boring) and could not be cleared/cleaned out below 155ft below the surface. Although reference is made to “drilling mud”, no verification of amount or gravity of the “72# Drilling Mud” was provided (re-abandonment found “dehydrated” drilling mud and did not contain the well).
Subsequent Playa Vista Re-abandonment of the subject well confirmed the lack of abandonment and documented placement of seven (7) cement plugs of less than 20% of bore (total plug length >800/<1000ft / <6000ft well total) with the remaining bore filled with “Clay based drilling mud” of unspecified weight and character. As during the original drilling, the re-abandonment experienced at least one “kick” (gas release, not oil spill) and then experienced gas release at the well cap surface which, reportedly, was successfully stopped with a surface seal. No explanation was provided for the surface gas “bubbles” (=”seepage gas”) for the surface casing above 800+ft of cement plugs in place.
Based on the above, the simplest explanation based on the currently available information is that the largest source of the gas in the area is in fact the SoCalGas Playa Del Rey Gas Storage Facility based on the field characteristics of the surface gases and the available gas composition and trace gases known or expected to be in the stored gases.
Changes of some gas characteristics could reflect the migration of gases to the surface through various formational and groundwater conditions from gas-containing formation which were not produced from, but not the generation or additions of helium in the State of California formations.
I highly recommend that the relevant agencies and organizations review all available information, re-assess the locations and compositions of surface gases, and provide exploration of the subsurface geotechnical, groundwater, and gas probe with appropriate inplace monitoring systems of >2000ft depth in the vicinity of the most prominent gas releases. Following review of additional information from such, a focused action plan with probable re-abandonment of wells in the vicinity may be required. Consideration should be given for the potential future development of CO2 sequestration in the area and, how these additional considerations could be integrated with programs and funding for CO2 health and safety assessments.
Unconsolidated alluvium (Holocene/Latest Quaternary)
Recent Alluvium Include deposits that are known locally as “50-Foot Gravel”1
Older Dune Sand
Consolidated alluvium (Pleistocene/Quaternary)
Lakewood Formation 100-ft thick
San Pedro Formation Sands with lenses
Pico Formation Marine sandstone, siltstone, and shale, interbedded with
marine gravels (DWR, 1961) 400 to 500 ft
Repetto Formation Siltstone and shale with layers of sandstone/conglomerate 3,000 ft
Sandstone beds – upper/middle Repetto Formation –
upper oil producing zone
Puente Formation Shale Devoid of major sand-bearing units. over 5,000 ft
Topanga Formation – SS Cg weathered material of Catalina Schist 6,000 ft
Schist conglomerate –
PDR oil field primary reservoir + depleted gas storage zone.
Santa Monica Schist or Catalina Schist Basement rock >6,000 feet