On Saturday, regulators in California decided to hold off on a plan to capture and burn the natural gas that is leaking from a broken storage well just north of Los Angeles, citing the risk of a “catastrophic explosion,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The well at the Aliso Canyon storage facility has been leaking since October 23, belching massive amounts of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, into the air. Methane is not only bad for climate change, it’s also extremely flammable.
At first, California regulators wanted to take advantage of that property of methane by capturing and burning off the gas coming from the well. That would have reduced the methane’s impact on the environment somewhat while Southern California Gas, the company that owns the Aliso Canyon facility, finished drilling the relief well to plug the underground reservoir feeding the leak. As National Geographic noted in an article last week, “Flaring gas has a much lower impact on the climate than a vent directly into the atmosphere—the flame converts gas into an amount of carbon dioxide that will have 30 times less warming potential in the near term.”
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