Message from the Director

As the Director of EGI, I am amazed every day by the reach and depth of the Institute’s global interaction with the world. This issue of ASK EGI is living proof of the diversity of topics, the scientific accomplishments, and the impact that EGI scientists make in our world. In this issue we take readers on a tour, from the long-term influence of EGI research in deep water to impacting an immediate challenge to rectify an onshore environmental disaster. Herein you’ll encounter a range of contributions spanning from a decade-long effort to provide a comprehensive understanding of rifts and passive margins, culminating in the publication of a major book authored by Dr. Michal Nemčok, to the successful control of the unprecedented leak in the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field in California.

Along with Dr. Nemčok’s significant long-term accomplishment with the release of his second book for Cambridge University Press, he has contributed notable scientific work in Atlantic margins, Western Australia, and India among other significant research projects.

As it became clear that California’s leaking natural gas well was among the worst environmental disasters in history to hit the state, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a State of Emergency for Los Angeles County. EGI Senior Affiliate Scientist Alan Walker was instrumental in the Control-Cement-Confirm sequence that brought the four-month long episode to a close.  Al credits his success in leading the State’s oversight of the engineering effort to control the well in part to his education and experience in the University of Utah’s Master’s in Petroleum Engineering program— a collaboration of faculty and instructors at EGI, the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Department of Geology and Geophysics.

Estimates place the greenhouse gas potential of the release, which began last October and was not controlled until February, roughly equal to the annual carbon emissions of 400,000 to 600,000 cars. Exact measures are difficult to determine, but the CA Air Resources Board has established preliminary estimates. It was the “largest methane leak in U.S. history,” according to a recent report by the scientific advisory panel of the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, a group of countries and partners trying to reduce emissions of short-lived climate change pollutants, such as methane.

Aliso Canyon gas storage field, owned by Southern California Gas Co a division of Sempra Energy, is the country’s fourth largest gas storage field of its kind and the largest source of natural gas for the Los Angeles area. EGI is very proud to have played a key role in the educational mission and experience base for the individual who played a significant part in successfully bringing this environmental disaster to an end.  Read an interview with Al Walker in this issue.