An unplanned natural gas emission ignited Sunday causing a large plume of smoke and flames from the Southern California Gas Co.'s Playa del Rey storage field.
Playa del Rey resident Marty Veselich said he witnessed two plumes on the Ballona Wetlands he estimated were at least 100 feet high from his bluff-top vantage point.
"We saw the initial burst from our place above the wetlands," he emailed the Daily Breeze. "My wife first felt a shaking and then we both saw two very large plumes of fire."
Firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the incident about 11:45 a.m. Sunday, said spokesman Erik Scott.
Javier Mendoza, a spokesman for SoCalGas, said the emission occurred as a crew injected natural gas into the ground to store it.
"The situation posed no immediate danger to the adjacent area or the public," he said. "A release vent properly performed its function by releasing natural gas. That's what caused the (loud) noise and, for a brief time, visible flame."
Mendoza said the flames were extinguished within an hour. He was unable to provide more specific information about the location of the gas emission.
The cause is under investigation.
The natural gas storage field was originally an oil field when developed in the 1930s, according to documents posted on the SoCalGas Co.'s website.
When production dropped to unviable levels, the federal government used it to store natural gas beginning in 1942.
The Gas Co.
As part of a 2007 agreement with the state Public Utilities Commission stemming from complaints made about the field's operation, SoCalGas pledged to notify nearby residents and businesses of unplanned venting lasting longer than 10 minutes or releasing more than 50,000 cubic feet of gas within 24 hours of an incident.
That information was not immediately available Sunday.
"Cosmetic" damage to the facility was estimated at $5,000, Mendoza said.
"We apologize to our neighbors and the public for any concerns this may have caused," he said.
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