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Many Wells Still Awaiting Three-Pronged Test at Aliso Canyon

Owner/operator Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has indicated its shuttered 86 Bcf Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage field may reopen this year, but most of the 114 storage wells still await final testing, officials said.

Regulators have said all wells must be thoroughly screened in a three-part process before any restart.

SoCalGas officials reported last month that all active wells at Aliso had completed Phase 1 inspections as of July 15, and 96 wells had moved on to Phase 2 of the inspection protocol (see Daily GPIJuly 20).  As of Wednesday, 21 wells had completed the required tests, with 17 receiving final approval by the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), a spokesperson told NGI.

Another DOGGR spokesperson told NGI that as of Tuesday nine wells had been taken out of operation, and 87 still remain "pending test results." No wells were in remediation and none had been plugged and abandoned.

"Many wells have been temporarily plugged and isolated from the gas reservoir until phase two testing can be complete," the spokesperson said. "This is a step that is required by DOGGR and does not mean the wells are unsafe or will not pass future inspections."

SoCalGas officials declined to speculate on how soon the facility would resume operations, although they did reiterate to NGI that the gas-only utility is working "to restore injection and normal operations at Aliso Canyon...working toward being able to begin injections at Aliso by late summer to prepare for the winter."

According to the gas utility, the eight well tests are:

●     Temperature tests throughout to sense variations that could indicate a leak;

●     Noise tests to pick up sound frequency changes that could indicate a leak;

●     Ultrasonic imaging to measure well casing thicknesses;

●     A cement bond test, using sound waves;

●     Magnetic flux leakage testing measuring pitting in steel casing and thickness of the steel;

●     A multi-arm caliper test to measure internal diameters and steel casing and detecting any variations in wall integrity;

●     Hydro pressure testing of well casing; and

●     Hydro pressure testing of well tubing.

Meanwhile, DOGGR held two public workshops earlier this month on pre-rulemaking draft regulations (discussion draft) to receive public input on the development of updates to the regulations governing the DOGGR’s Gas Storage Program. The comment period ends Monday (Aug. 22).

"We received helpful feedback at our public workshops on the proposed regulations," said a DOGGR spokesperson. "Staff will now draft the regulations and issue them for review in February next year."

DOGGR has issued emergency regulations and the pre-rulemaking draft permanent regulations as part of the state's response to the four-month long leak at Aliso Canyon that was capped in mid-February (see Daily GPIFeb. 18).

Also last month, Sempra Energy's SoCalGas issued a video showing the eight-step safety review testing regime mandated by DOGGR. The protocol was established by the state in consultation with Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley National Laboratories.

SoCalGas COO Bret Lane said a thorough testing regime was "an important part of regaining people's trust and confidence that Aliso Canyon is safe to operate." 

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