SoCal Gas says Porter Ranch gas leak could be fixed by late February

PORTER RANCH, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The largest gas leak in U.S. history may have an earlier end in sight as the Southern California Gas Company said it expects to stop the spewing well by late February.

The leak at the Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch was first reported in October 2015. It has since become the largest environmental disaster in the U.S. since the BP oil spill of 2010.

SoCal Gas began drilling a relief well on Dec. 4, 2015, and at that time, the company said it expected that the leak would take three to four months to fix. Now, SoCal Gas said the process is ahead of schedule.

Once it reaches and seals the leaking well, SoCal Gas said the well will be permanently taken out of service.

Monday's announcement is welcomed news to the thousands of residents displaced by the leak at SoCal Gas' largest natural gas storage facility.

The company recently said it would launch a new system that captures leaking gas and burns it off while running it through charcoal filters to help mitigate some of the smell.

But SoCal Gas said on Monday that it is scrapping the plan "because of safety concerns expressed by its engineers."

Recently released scientific images captured by a high-precision natural gas analyzer showed the extensive scope of the months-long gas leak.

MORE: Images shed new light on scope of Porter Ranch gas leak
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Scientific images show the extensive scope of a months long gas leak at Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon storage facility near Porter Ranch.

Bob Ackley, President of Gas Safety Inc., said some readings indicated methane levels 60 times higher than the normal breathing level, which he said is typically 1.95 parts per million. Ackley said one reading hit 127 parts per million.

Around the same time the images were released, SoCal Gas said it underestimated the number of times airborne levels of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer, spiked over the last three months.

The company initially said two air samples briefly showed elevated concentrations of the substance. However, new information came to light that at least a dozen samples contained at least twice the amount of benzene that's considered normal.

Meantime, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitchell Englander are set to tour the site of gas leak on Tuesday.
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