On May 15, 2019, the California Energy Commission awarded a $4.9 million grant to a multi-institutional project team led by UC Berkeley’s Pacific Earthquake Engineering Center (PEER) to improve the seismic risk assessment of natural gas storage and pipeline infrastructure. As part of this project, Berkeley Lab’s Energy Geosciences Division will receive $1.084 million to focus on seismic risk to underground gas storage facilities, in particular the potential for gas leakage through potentially damaged wells and caprocks.

During the 2.5-year project, the project team will develop open-source software to better assess risks to natural gas storage and pipeline systems from seismic activity. The tool will improve the safety and integrity of natural gas storage, piping, and infrastructure systems by helping regulators and owners direct seismic mitigation efforts to the most vulnerable components. Berkeley Lab’s work on risk assessment of underground infrastructure is an important part of these efforts.

“In the event of an earthquake, underground gas storage facilities could experience significant damage from both ground shaking and direct fault displacement,” said Jens Birkholzer, the Lab’s principal investigator for the project.

“After experiencing the well blowout at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility a few years ago, the need to better assess seismic risk to gas storage facilities and guide mitigation efforts became very clear,” adds Jonny Rutqvist, Berkeley Lab senior scientist and expert in geomechanics and seismic shearing.

In addition to UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the tool will be developed by researchers and experts from Slate Geotechnical Consultants, UC San Diego, and the University of Nevada, Reno, with support from the NHERI Computational Modeling and Simulation Center (SimCenter).  Cooperating utilities are Southern California Gas Company and Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

“This collaborative project combines researchers from three PEER core institutions, a national lab, industry member, and the NHERI SimCenter,” said Professor Khalid Mosalam, Director of PEER. “Through PEER’s use of the new open-source software, we expect this innovative project to have long-lasting impact on the state of practice. PEER is excited to be providing support to this project at many levels including experiments, software maintenance, and outreach activities.”

Access the original news release from PEER here.

Research Team:

Principal Investigator (PI): Jonathan D. Bray, UC Berkeley

Project Manager: Jennie Watson-Lamprey, Slate Geotechnical Consultants

Team: Norm Abrahamson, UC Berkeley; Jens Birkholzer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; John Diehl, GEOVision; John Eidinger, G&E Engineering Systems; Tara Hutchinson, UC San Diego; Grace Kang, PEER; Amarnath Kasalanati, PEER; Scott Lindvall, Lettis Consultants International; David McCallen, University of Nevada Reno; Thomas O’Rourke; Jonny Rutqvist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Kenichi Soga, UC Berkeley; Stephen Thompson, Lettis Consultants International; and Jeff Unruh, Lettis Consultants International.