Crews from SoCalGas and outside experts work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon facility above the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 9. 2015. Once the relief well is connected to the leaking well, SoCalGas will pump fluids and cement into the bottom of the leaking well to stop the flow of gas and permanently seal the well. (Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool)

PORTER RANCH (CNS) — Southern California Gas Co. officials say they have identified the below-ground location of a natural gas injection well that has been sending large quantities of methane into the atmosphere near the Porter Ranch neighborhood for the past two months, and can now move on to the next stage of stopping the leak.

Gas Co. workers on Sunday, Dec. 27 found the path of the leaking well using a magnetic ranging tool, marking an “expected milestone” in what is anticipated to be a three- to four-month-long process to stop the leak, Gas Co. officials said.

The trajectory of the injection well’s underground path may deviate from where the well appears to be from above ground, according to the utility.

The drilling of the relief well began 1,500 feet away and has been angling toward the leaking injection well, finally nearing it on Sunday, after burrowing down about 3,800 feet, according to Gas Co. officials.

“One of the challenges in drilling this relief well is to find a seven-inch pipe from about 1,500 feet away, several thousand feet below ground — while avoiding others nearby,” according to a Gas Co. statement.

The methane gas leak at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility well was discovered by Gas Co. crews on Oct. 23. The company is aiming to stop the leak by late February to late March.

Workers will now continue drilling along a parallel path as the leaking well toward a natural gas reservoir located more than 8,000 feet below ground, according to the utility’s latest update.

Once the leaking injection well is intercepted, heavy fluids and mud will be pumped in to stop up the leak, then cement will be used to seal the well.

Gas Co. officials said they are preparing to drill a back-up relief well, with work expected to begin in January and be completed in three to four months.

The Gas Co. has already told state regulators that drilling of the primary relief well will be completed by Feb. 24.

Residents have complained of nausea, nosebleeds, dizziness and headaches related to the leak. So far, thousands of residents have voluntarily left the area and two schools have been closed.

As of last week, 2,174 households had been temporarily relocated and another 2,694 were in the process, according to the Gas Co.

Responding to legal action by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, the Gas Co. agreed to respond to relocation requests within 72 hours, and to pay for a pair of retired judges to oversee and expedite relocations of residents affected by the continuing gas leak.

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