Keeping California’s natural gas system safe

The second project, led by Jonny Rutqvist, will receive $1.6 million to develop a new 3-D methodology to identify and monitor areas at high risk of ground deformation caused by sinking land.
"There is an urgent need for a risk management system that is thorough, robust, and reliable and that will facilitate early damage detection and leak prevention."
Zhang will lead a multidisciplinary team of scientists who will develop and demonstrate a system aimed at helping facility operators and risk managers characterize, model, and manage the safety and integrity of underground natural gas storage infrastructure.
Scientific models to manage risk California has 14 underground storage facilities in 12 fields with a capacity of 385 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
In addition to leaks through wells, earthquakes, landslides, and caprock fracturing could also cause potential damage to natural gas storage facilities and possible natural gas leakage.
"The way these wells were constructed decades ago may not be adequate for today’s standards," Zhang said.
Zhang’s system — dubbed the Integrated Risk Management and Decision-Support System (IRMDSS) — will merge advanced monitoring technologies with scientific models to continuously assess risks and provide early leakage detection.
How drought led to ground deformation To make matters worse for the state’s aging pipelines, the extreme drought led to large increases in groundwater pumping, which in turn has resulted in unprecedented rates of subsidence.
Berkeley Lab and InfraTerra Inc., in collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, PG&E, and Natural Resources Canada, will develop a new methodology that combines large-scale, state-of-the-art remote sensing surveys linked with advanced modeling and inverse analysis of ground deformation.
A key advancement of this technology is to consider the full 3-D ground deformations and their impact on pipelines, including both horizontal (lateral) and vertical components of surface deformation.

Learn More