California blowout led to largest U.S. methane release ever

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Science Daily.

The Aliso Canyon natural gas well blowout, first reported on Oct. 23, 2015, released over 100,000 tons of the powerful greenhouse gas methane before the well was sealed on Feb. 11, according to the first study of the accident published today in the journal Science. The results confirm that Aliso Canyon is the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

The research effort by the University of California, Davis; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and partners showed that during the peak of the Aliso Canyon event, enough methane poured into the air every day to fill a balloon the size of the Rose Bowl.

“Our results show how failures of natural gas infrastructure can significantly impact greenhouse gas control efforts,” said NOAA’s Tom Ryerson, co-lead scientist on the study.

The disaster will substantially impact California’s ability to meet greenhouse gas emission targets for the year, the researchers said.

‘This was just a huge event’

Co-lead scientist and pilot Stephen Conley of Scientific Aviation and UC Davis said first readings in early November were so high he had to recheck his gear.

“It became obvious that there wasn’t anything wrong with the instruments,” he said. “This was just a huge event.”

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