Roughly 65% of natural gas storage facilities in the U.S. are located in suburban U.S. neighborhoods, a new Harvard University study reveals.
More than 50,000 people live within a city block of an operating underground natural gas storage facility, researchers at Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment (C-change) found, Kallanish Energy finds.
A 2015 rupture at Sempra Energy’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility forced thousands of residents to evacuate for months and cost the company more than $1 billion.
Most of the storage facilities are more than 50 years old and weren’t in populated areas when they were built, according to Harvard. They may also carry safety risks because they weren’t designed for storage, the researchers added.
“As the U.S. transitions more toward natural gas to meet energy needs, it is critical that we fully understand the potential health, climate and safety implications along the entire natural gas supply chain,” said Drew Michanowicz, lead author and research fellow at Harvard C-change.
“This work should help inform ongoing discussions around impacts and societal costs related to both current and future energy decisions.”
Previous studies using U.S. census data underestimated the number of people living near gas storage wells, according to the study. The new research, published Monday in the Journal of Environmental Health, combines census records with land use and satellite data.
Two-thirds of gas storage wells across the U.S. are currently doing a job they were not designed to do, which is withstand cycles of high-pressure gas injections and withdrawals — many through a single pipe without backup safety valves to prevent blowouts, according to the Harvard study.
The study examined the locations of 9,384 wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, New York, and California.
This post appeared first on Kallanish Energy News.