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California Adopts Emergency Gas, Oil Storage Regulations

California regulators set new emergency requirements for natural gas and oil storage operations in the state -- including requirements for testing, inspections and monitoring of all wells -- in response to an emergency declaration by Gov. Jerry Brown over the Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon storage well leak earlier this year.

On Friday, California Department of Conservation (DOC) officials said the new regulations would strengthen state oversight of oil and gas storage, making final for at least six months regulations issued in draft form last month (see Daily GPI, Jan. 15).

The regulations are effective immediately and require all gas storage companies to complete enhanced inspections and testing at every gas well in the state.

“We intend to make these emergency regulations a permanent requirement in California and are committed to strong oversight measures that help ensure the health and safety and environmental protection of this state," said state oil/gas supervisor Ken Harris.

The emergency regulations were generated in response to the governor's Jan. 6 declaration of a state of emergency due to the more than three-month-old natural gas storage well leak at Aliso Canyon (see Daily GPI, Jan. 6). The DOC submitted the draft emergency regulations to the state’s Office of Administrative Law on Jan. 15. The emergency regulations will be effective for six months, but can be extended if necessary, Harris said.

Brown’s emergency proclamation ordered DOC’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to issue emergency regulations requiring gas storage facility operators throughout the state to comply with six new safety and reliability measures:

  • Require daily inspection of gas storage well heads, 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 circular 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; and
  • Require each storage facility to establish a comprehensive risk management plan, including corrosion potential of pipes and equipment.

The new regulations have been distributed to all oil and gas companies in California and are posted on the DOC website.

Longer term, DOGGR has committed to initiate another process to establish permanent regulation for gas storage, which the agency said would involve "significant" public review and input.

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