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Comments on potential geologic and seismic hazards affecting proposed liquefied natural gas site in Santa Monica Bay, California

December 23, 2008

In a letter to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) dated March 25, 2008, Representative Jane Harman (California 36th district) requested advice on geologic hazards that should be considered in the review of a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility off the California coast in Santa Monica Bay. In 2004, the USGS responded to a similar request from Representative Lois Capps, regarding two proposed LNG facilities offshore Ventura County, Calif., with a report summarizing potential geologic and seismic hazards (Ross and others, 2004).

The proposed LNG Deepwater Port (DWP) facility includes single point moorings (SPMs) and 35 miles of underwater pipelines. The DWP submersible buoys, manifolds, and risers would be situated on the floor of the southern Santa Monica Basin, in 3,000 feet of water, about 23 miles offshore of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Twin 24-inch diameter pipelines would extend northeastward from the buoys across the basin floor, up the basin slope and across the continental shelf, skirting north around the Santa Monica submarine canyon. Figure 1 provides locations of the project and geologic features. Acronyms are defined in table 1.

This facility is being proposed in a region of known geologic hazards that arise from both the potential for strong earthquakes and geologic processes related to sediment transport and accumulation in the offshore environment. The probability of a damaging earthquake (considered here as magnitude 6.5 or greater) in the next 30 years within about 30 miles (50 km) of the proposed pipeline ranges from 16% at the pipeline's offshore end to 48% where it nears land (Petersen, 2008). Earthquakes of this magnitude are capable of producing strong shaking, surface fault offsets, liquefaction phenomena, landslides, underwater turbidity currents and debris flow avalanches, and tsunamis.

As part of the DWP license application for the Woodside Natural Gas proposal in Santa Monica Bay (known as the OceanWay Secure Energy Project), Fugro West, Inc., had already prepared a document discussing geologic hazards in the area, titled 'Exhibit B Topic Report 6 - Geological Resources' (Fugro West, Inc., 2007); hereafter, this will be called the 'Geological Resources document'. The USGS agreed to evaluate the information in the Geological Resources document regarding (1) proximity of active faults to the proposed project, (2) potential magnitude of seismic events from nearby faults, (3) thoroughness of the assessment of earthquake hazards in general, (4) potential hazards from ground rupture and strong shaking, (5) potential hazards from tsunamis, and (6) other geologic hazards including landslides and debris flows. Because two new earthquake probability reports were scheduled to be released in mid-April, 2008, by the USGS and the California Geological Survey (CGS), the USGS suggested a 6-month review period to enable a thorough incorporation of this new information.

Twenty-seven scientists from the USGS and the CGS reviewed various sections of the Geological Resources document. This report outlines our major conclusions. The appendix is a longer list of comments by these reviewers, grouped by section of the Geological Resources document. Before discussing our reviews, we first provide a brief overview of geologic hazards in the proposed site area.

This report is a snapshot in time and any future work in the area will need to take into account ongoing research efforts. For example, USGS scientists collected seismic reflection data in the spring of 2008 to study the structure and seismic potential of several faults in the area. Their interpretations (Conrad and others, 2008a and 2008b) are too preliminary to be included in this report, but their final results, along with other researchers' studies in the project area, should be considered in any future work on the Deepwater Port project.

Publication Year 2008
Title Comments on potential geologic and seismic hazards affecting proposed liquefied natural gas site in Santa Monica Bay, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20081344
Authors Stephanie L. Ross, Homa J. Lee, Tom E. Parsons, Larry A. Beyer, David M. Boore, James E. Conrad, Brian D. Edwards, Michael A. Fisher, Arthur D. Frankel, Eric L. Geist, Kenneth W. Hudnut, Susan E. Hough, Robert E. Kayen, T.D. Lorenson, Nicolas Luco, Patricia A. McCrory, Mary McGann, Manuel Nathenson, Michael Nolan, Mark D. Petersen, Daniel J. Ponti, Charles L. Powell, Holly F. Ryan, John C. Tinsley, Chris J. Wills, Florence L. Wong, Jingping Xu
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2008-1344
Index ID ofr20081344
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center; Western Coastal and Marine Geology