Workers close off methane leak in California

Work crews have begun injecting a stopping compound into a damaged natural gas well in California that has been leaking methane into the air for months.

Southern California Gas Co. said Thursday that there is no longer any more methane leaking from the damaged storage well in Porter Ranch, Calif., outside of Los Angeles. 

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that nearby residents were no longer smelling a gaseous odor in their city. Officials in the area said it was a good first step, but now the storage facility needs to be declared fully safe before the area can return to normal. 

Officials discovered the methane leak in October, with the damaged well soon spewing up to 130,000 pounds of methane into the air per hour. Thousands of residents evacuated the city, driven out while officials undertook the slow work of plugging the well. 

The cause of the leak is unknown, and initial efforts to plug it by injecting a chemical solution into the well failed due to obstructions several hundred feet down.

Southern California Gas then began drilling two relief wells in order to pump the plugging solution closer to the natural gas reservoir, buried 8,500 feet below ground. That work began on Dec. 4 and ended this week. 

The leak has so far cost Southern California Gas $300 million, with 67 lawsuits against the company pending, according to the Times.