On January 15, 2016, the Department of Conservation gave notice of an interim rulemaking package to regulate underground natural gas storage facilities.  The proposed rulemaking comes in response to the continuing gas leak at an underground gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon.

Governor Brown called for the new regulations in his emergency proclamation, which included a mandate that the emergency regulations contain the following requirements:

  • Require at least a daily inspection of gas storage wellheads, using gas leak detection technology such as infrared imaging.
  • Require ongoing verification of the mechanical integrity of all gas storage wells.
  • Require ongoing measurement of annular gas pressure or annular gas flow within wells.
  • Require regular testing of all safety valves used in wells.
  • Establish minimum and maximum pressure limits for each gas storage facility in the state.
  • Require each storage facility to establish a comprehensive risk management plan that evaluates and prepares for risk at each facility, including corrosion potential of pipes and equipment.

The emergency regulations will be officially submitted to the State Office of Administrative Law on January 26, from which point the public will have five days to submit comments. (Correcting our original post, which gave ten days from January 26 as the deadline to submit comments.)

The Aliso Canyon gas storage facility is one of more than 400 underground storage sites across the United States.  Most existing natural gas storage occurs in depleted natural gas or oil fields that are close to metropolitan areas. California has twelve underground natural gas storage sites, seven of which are owned by the two principal gas distributors in the State, SoCal Gas and PG&E.

Prior to the leak, the state had been working on underground injection regulations to require stricter monitoring and measurement of emissions.