back to article Human cost of California gas well leak revealed

The BBC has published an entertaining analysis of the emissions of a blown-out natural gas well near Los Angeles, which is releasing so much methane that LA county supervisor Mike Antonovich was moved over the weekend to describe the disaster as "a mini-Chernobyl". For those of us wondering just how much is "so much", Auntie …

  1. Sloppy Crapmonster

    I have a question

    "This may prove handy for future use when smaller volumes prove inadequate, such as our 2013 estimate that the entire Reg readership would fill no less than 205 Olympic-sized swimming pools."

    Are we being stacked neatly into the pools or are we being liquefied first?

    1. Nunyabiznes

      Re: I have a question

      "Are we being stacked neatly into the pools or are we being liquefied first?"

      Both. The early birds get stacked in. If you are late you get run through the Soylent processor and sprayed into the pool to fill in the gaps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: I have a question

        Um, I think you'll find that El Reg uses a people pulping machine which SPB salvaged from a disabled Tripod.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I have a question

      Does the Reg strike you as the type of organization that would stack anything neatly?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So is this basically a supersized Bulgarian airbag?

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Headmaster

    That blown-out well is actually a big deal

    Since methane is such a powerful greenhouse gas, just this one blow-out has the effect of increasing California's greenhouse effect emissions by 25%.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That blown-out well is actually a big deal

      Where's the EPA and how much is California's fine going to be compared with VW?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re: That blown-out well is actually a big deal

        It was probably the EPA which took the cap off the thing to see what's inside... then sidled away whistling.

        0.1%

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That blown-out well is actually a big deal (Really?)

        The EPA are still trying to figure out the final tally for British Petroleum after the Deep Horizon well blowout. Those who live in glass houses....

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: That blown-out well is actually a big deal (Really?)

          "The EPA are still trying to figure out the final tally for British Petroleum after the Deep Horizon well blowout. Those who live in glass houses...."

          Who are British Petroleum? Maybe you mean BP, a new company formed from the amalgamation of British Petroleum and Amoco, formerly Standard Oil of Indiana, nearly 20 years ago and is 40% owned by American shareholders, 3 of the top 6 being based in California.

          You might want to read a newspaper article on the subject.

          Of course, before the US company Amoco (Standard Oil) became part British, they caused the worlds biggest oil disaster and did it in Britain's back yard, destroying a huge chunk of the French coastline.. Texaco also had a bit of a mishap up in Alaska a bit more recently. It's lucky you can't see out of your glass house due all that spilled oil on the panes.

    2. PNGuinn
      Thumb Up

      Re: That blown-out well is actually a big deal

      How ironic.

      Bet they blame VW.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: That blown-out well is actually a big deal

        Not V, just W.

  4. Scott 26
    Mushroom

    If they can put all that methane in one stadium, why don't they put a match to it?

    No more methane..... (no more stadium either for that matter)

    1. Fink-Nottle

      > why don't they put a match to it?

      St Custards chem. master sa nothing would happen to a big bag of methane. Chiz.

      He also sa stuff about explosive limit but i got board.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Mass Transit Declined

    The Beeb reckons around 11,296 individuals have been temporarily relocated - enough to pack "176 double-decker buses"

    But each one of them got into their own personal car SUV and drove away, roughly doubling the amount of pollution due to this disaster.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mass Transit Declined (Master of sanctimony, Roberty Helpmann)

      Since there is about 10,000 times as much space between cities in this country versus yours, mass transit doesn't work in the USA except in large cities and then not very well.

      We like our cars and SUV's and YOU don't get to say a thing about it. Go and whine about something else or we'll open some more gas valves in your general direction.

      Mass transit in this country is the transportation method of the underclasses. Riding a bus in most cities is the equivalent of surfing in a manure lagoon with Typhoid Mary. The only source of infection that is greater than that is having children in daycare or the isolation ward at Rikers.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Mass Transit Declined (Master of sanctimony, Roberty Helpmann)

        > Mass transit in this country is the transportation method of the underclasses

        That is, if you've even got mass transit. My part of the city doesn't even have busses available, unless I want to go to/from the local university.

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

        Re: Mass Transit Declined (Master of sanctimony, Roberty Helpmann)

        Sorry, you mistake me for someone else. I live in the NOVA area and commute into DC every day. California hasn't seceded (yet) so no point made. I lived in the Atlanta area previously and before that worked in Santa Fe and commuted from both Las Vegas (NM) and Espanola. In all cases I have carpooled or taken public transportation (VRE and Metro in the DC area and MARTA in Atlanta) where I can and have hated it when it was not available to me (I have done a lot of shift work). It may not work perfectly, but it works so much better than driving in alone.

        My views on commuting and mass transit/carpooling were cemented when I took my wife into Atlanta during rush hour one day. We were allowed to drive in the HOV lane and could breeze along at 55ish miles an hour past a sea of cars stuck on I75/85N going nowhere. It wasn't a good situation for them, for their cars, or for anyone around them, but there they all were. From talking to many people who express views similar to those you have, I would say it is a safe bet that the majority of them would say they would much rather have their cars at work because it provides them with a sense of independence and other BS in the face of many, many hours and dollars wasted from the decision to avoid public transportation.

        The fact that public transportation is not reasonably available to you where you live is because it is a political issue and politicians listen to what voters have to say and then parrot what they think will get them elected. If you do not say you want good public transportation, you get what you deserve. Unfortunately, you also inflict your opinions on everyone else.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Mass Transit Declined (Master of sanctimony, Roberty Helpmann)

          And like so many of the brain dead progtards who've moved to Northern Virginia, you've quite missed his point. Where you live is part of the DC metro area. You aren't commuting BETWEEN cities, you are commuting WITHIN the city. Because, yes, it is one huge city that just happens to cross state boundaries. Commute between two actually distinct cities like DC and Philadelphia or even Baltimore which for planning purposes is frequently considered part of of the megacity that contains DC and the options disappear. Even within the city it depends on your EXACT location. Northern Virginia to DC is the paid political patronage route and well supported. I'm in Germantown. My commuting options suck, which is why MOST people drive their cars down 270.

          1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: Mass Transit Declined (Master of sanctimony, Roberty Helpmann)

            I'm in Germantown. My commuting options suck, which is why MOST people drive their cars down 270.

            No, I get the point just fine. To follow up, please explain to the class what exactly you have done about the issue?

            In this area, people have come up with their own solutions (Google "slugging" for one example) and actively grill our representatives at all levels concerning commuter issues. I cornered my state rep at one point and did just this and have also sat through more than one VRE public meeting. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have moved around a bit and looked closely at my commuter options when choosing a new place to live. the Santa Fe area had no commuter system when I lived there. I haven't bothered to find out if they do yet, but I doubt it. Atlanta did and still does. I lived in Fayette and Coweta counties which actively resist allowing MARTA in, and in DeKalb right next to one of the bus stops. All are quite different from DC.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gun toten

    Surprised nobody's put a tracer round through it to see what happens.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Gun toten

      It's in the People's Republic of California, very few guns. Also, the hillbillies are familiar with methane and related gases from the coal fields; they know it can go boom. Some redneck from LA (Lower Alabama not Los Angeles) is probably dim enough to try.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Gun toten

        Only a Yank lurker would consider more than 10 million guns "very few".

        Source.

  8. martinusher Silver badge

    Oh, they do fuss so.....

    Yes, its a big gas leak and, yes, its happened before. What's the big deal this time? Only that some developers pushed the boundaries of Los Angles to within a mile or so of this facility and sold those (quite expensive) houses on the bucolic lifestyle, clean air and country living high above the San Fernando Valley. (You should read their marketing stuff, get your slice of Elysium &tc.)

    Since these are middle class homeowners and property developers they are more adept at making noise than, say, the citizens of Vernon (who have a bona-fide environmental disaster on their hands). I do feel a bit sorry for them since the gas is odorized -- it stinks -- but apart from being a nuisance its harmless. Unfortunately there are paydays involved -- lawyers, developers and so on -- so expect this problem to be made into a major catastrophe.

    (BTW -- See the New Scientist for unusual units.)

    Last time they had a leak it did catch fire. That's why the storage facility is in the middle of nowhere. (....or, at least, *was* in the middle of nowhere).

    1. Turtle

      @martinusher Re: Oh, they do fuss so.....

      "That's why the storage facility is in the middle of nowhere. (....or, at least, *was* in the middle of nowhere)."

      I believe that this happened at Bhopal too: the chemical plant was built well away from living areas, which subsequently encroached on the plant's very immediate surroundings.

      Something somewhat similar happened at Love Canal, where local officials, in spite of knowing that a certain tract of land was in use as a toxic chemical dump, and in spite of the strong protestations from the company that owned and used the site as a toxic chemical dump, decided to build housing and a school on the site. And, by the way, the site was a toxic chemical dump. The company that owned the toxic chemical dump, being threatened with the use of eminent domain to confiscate the toxic chemical dump in order to use it for housing development, decided to sell it to the city, so as to be able to put, in the contracts, warnings about the toxic chemicals buried there, at the toxic chemical dump. Although it would have been very appropriate, none of the officials responsible for this were ever executed.

      In fact, the law did not, and even today would still not, recognize such actions as a capital offense.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Turtle Re: @martinusher Oh, they do fuss so.....

        I believe that this happened at Bhopal too: the chemical plant was built well away from living areas, which subsequently encroached on the plant's very immediate surroundings.

        That was my understanding of the cause too, until I spoke to some of the chemical engineers who had actually worked at the Union Carbide plant at Bhopal. [In passing, they concluded that the senior plant management was very slipshod, and got out to other jobs before the disaster struck. I am not now surprised that the American management cadre at the plant were all shipped back (= ran away) to the States almost overnight, nor that the Indian government still wants to arrest any of them foolish enough to try to return.]

        Those poor souls most immediately and seriously affected were not in the hutments immediately around the site boundary fence, but were instead in the centre of the city. Gas cloud modelling, using information from the Indian meteorological service and the known temperature and density of the escaping gas are reported to confirm that the gas cloud lifted high enough to pass over the hutments and descended once it had cooled sufficiently. Sadly this was over the main part of the city, and caught many people including those living in housing built with planning permission.

        These days, every major Indian chemical works must have an "Off Site Emergency Plan" that details how to manage leaks that travel beyond the site perimeter. That plan shall be tested annually in a drill that involves not only the site management but also the relevant civil authorities. Does California have any similar requirement for an "Off Site Emergency Plan"? When was the last exercise for the plan for this gas storage field? It would be interesting to see the Risk Assessment that underpins it.

  9. Old Handle
    Facepalm

    But seriously, how hard can it be to seal one stupid well? I kind of get the impression they're all just sitting around scratching their heads (or other body parts) wondering what to do about it. At least with Deep Water Horizons we got regular updates about BP's various attempts to seal it.

  10. M7S
    Joke

    Is this the next step in demonising smokers?

    First we force them outdoors.

    Then we make that environment "challenging".

    I sense a BOFH type mentality behind this.

  11. MOV r0,r0
    Joke

    All Aboard

    88 London buses each making two trips? Mind you, LA/London round trip is some distance and no news on how London plans to house the 11,296 displaced either, El Reg?

  12. Doc Farmer 1

    Californian Refugees?

    Californian Refugees?

    Can we send them to Syria?

    1. Turtle

      @Doc Farmer 1 Re: Californian Refugees?

      "Californian Refugees? Can we send them to Syria?"

      That's just another piece of evidence serving to show us the truth in the observation that the most brilliant ideas seem so obvious in hindsight.

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