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Calif. gas storage operators would check for leaks daily under proposed rules

California regulators proposed underground gas storageregulations that would have operators do daily leak inspections permanently andconduct more frequent testing.

"This preliminary draft of regulations updates constructionand operating standards of gas storage wells, introduces new data andmonitoring requirements for storage facilities, and ensures adequate riskmanagement and emergency response plans at each storage facility," KenHarris, the California Department of Conservation's oil and gas supervisor,said in a July 8 statement. "Our emphasis is to ensure public safety andenvironmental protection during the operation of these facilities."

The regulations would replace emergency rules the department'sDivision of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources enacted in response to themulti-month leak atSouthern California Gas Co.'sAliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.

The draft regulations would direct operators to haveappropriate automatic or remote safety valves, depending on a storage facilitywell's age, distance from populated areas, proximity to environmentally orculturally sensitive areas, and risks to other infrastructure, among otherfactors.

DOGGR also said it wants to see ongoing integrityverification and demonstration at every well, corrosion monitoring, closeranalysis of changes in well pressure and other characteristics, and companiesprioritizing risk mitigation.

Under the rules, operators also would have to inspect eachwellhead and the connected pipes for leaks at least once a day using "effective"gas leak detection technology, such as infrared imaging.

With the threat of gas-shortage-induced and having faced majorpublic outcry overthe Aliso Canyon leak, the state is not waiting for inthe works at the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

DOGGR said it is taking public comment on the state ruleproposal through Aug. 11, and the Department of Conservation expects to holdtwo public workshops in on the draft regulations.