Blowout Risk Worsened by Efforts to Plug SoCal Gas Leak; Fire Also a Major Concern

Southern California Gas Co.'s effort to plug its leaking natural gas well involves higher stakes than simply stopping the fumes that have sickened many residents of Porter Ranch.

The boundary of Southern California Gas Company property, where Aliso Canyon Storage Field is located, is seen on Dec. 22, 2015. (Credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

The boundary of Southern California Gas Company property, where Aliso Canyon Storage Field is located, is seen on Dec. 22, 2015. (Credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

The company also is trying to avoid a blowout, which state regulators said is now a significant concern after a seventh attempt to plug the well created more precarious conditions at the site.

If a blowout occurs, highly flammable gas would vent directly up through the well, known as SS25, rather than dissipating as it does now via the subsurface leak and underground channels.

State officials said a blowout would increase the amount of leaked gas, causing greater environmental damage. That natural gas also creates the risk of a massive fire if ignited by a spark. The risk of fire already is so high that cellphones and watches are banned from the site.

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