How to stop the Porter Ranch gas leak?

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Residents Want Action on Gas Leak" from a well owned by Southern California Gas that is spewing methane into the California sky!  Erin Brockovich is aghast!  Experts agree that this is the worst U.S. environmental disaster since the BP oil spill.  The leak is equal to one quarter of all the other methane emissions in California.  So where is the president?  He asserts that "climate change" is the biggest threat to Americans.  Methane is a greenhouse gas.  Doesn't he feel a need to act?

As the WSJ notes:

Christine Katz, a Porter Ranch resident whose family left the area in December after her 2-year-old daughter was hospitalized for respiratory issues, began a petition calling on Mr. Brown, a Democrat, to declare a state of emergency to provide residents financial help. So far, it has 671 supporters.

“You can’t see it [the gas], so there’s denial. It’s not a fire, it’s not a flood. I feel like [political leaders] are ignoring it,” said Ms. Katz, 41. The gas company relocated her family to a five-bedroom house costing $8,000 a month, she said.

Some residents including Ms. Katz have suggested that Mr. Brown has yet to be more engaged because his sister, former California Treasurer Kathleen Brown, sits on Sempra Energy’s board.

Maybe Obama’s reticence is due to "professional courtesy" among the Ruling Class.  Highlighting the problem would embarrass Democrat Governor Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) and his sister, former treasurer Kathleen Brown (D-Calif.).  It's one thing to attack a corporation, such as BP.  It's another to attack Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat.

So are there any lessons to learn from the BP oil spill?  One such lesson might be that Obama has no technical expertise in well control.  The public doubtless remembers that his response to the BP spill was to order the drilling of not just one, but two relief wells.  Did that work?  No!

Who says the relief well did not stop the leak in the BP spill event?  Tom Hunter says so.  He was then the president of the Sandia National Lab and was later appointed as the chairman of the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee.  He was the federal government's top scientific expert during the BP spill.  Let us read from his December 4, 2010 email to Jed Borghei of the President’s Oil Spill Commission from Exhibit 9908 from the BP oil spill trial.

ps I noticed in the Cspan coverage of the Commission’s last meeting that two points were made that are not consistent with my views.

The first is that the relief well was the critical feature in the sealing of the well. My view is that the capping stack, mud injection, and top cementing were the dominant sealing method. The relief well was an important demonstration of technology. The discussion was about requiring a relief well as a containment feature. I am sure everyone realizes that cement went into the well almost six weeks before the relief well intercept.

So how are they trying to stop the Porter Ranch leak – by drilling a relief well?  Yes, indeed, they are.  And they expect it to take until March to complete that relief well.  Maybe President Obama needs some public outcry – perhaps a reminder of what he told the public back then: "This is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about: the spill."

From my perspective, there may be viable alternatives.  I would note that I did make an argument for what became known as the "static kill" operation, which resulted in utilizing the capping stack to inject mud and then apply top cement to BP's Macondo 252 well.  I did it in real time, at 0648 CDT on July 20, 2010 on the now defunct "Peak Oil" website The Oil Drum.  Note that at that time, the federal government's insistence was that the relief well was the answer.  Tom Hunter agrees that the procedure worked.

Christine Katz is now echoing the question President Obama's daughter Malia posed then: "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?"  Perhaps he ought to think about that.  I did.  I even wrote about it on my blog.  Without much more detail, not yet released to the public, I can't be sure if it will work.  But the procedure I named in her honor, Malia's Marbles, might do the trick.

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