SoCal Gas Ordered to Fill Gas Storage Fields

28 Mar 2018

SoCal Gas is under a state regulatory order to accelerate the storage of natural gas to prepare for summer demand because company pipelines remain out of service. The closed pipelines, which have been offline for months, hamper import capacity into the Los Angeles metro area.

California Public Utilities Commission Executive Director Alice Stebbins called the need to fill natural gas storage facilities in Southern California “urgent.” In a letter to the utility earlier this month, she told SoCal Gas to “begin maximizing storage injection as soon as possible.”

Stebbins said gas levels in the utility’s four storage fields are “critically low.”

She called on the utility to submit an advice letter to the CPUC by March 30 outlining its plans to fill its gas storage fields up this spring ahead of the summer’s higher need for the fuel to run power plants.

Low gas storage levels come after a mild winter in Southern California ended with a cold snap and rainy weather, according to Bret Lane, SoCal Gas president. He told the CPUC the utility is assessing storage needs for this summer and next winter, which it will outline in its upcoming advice letter.

Meanwhile, three utility pipelines under CPUC safety jurisdiction remain out of service or are operating on a limited basis due to safety concerns, according to Stebbins.

One line is expected to return to service in May after repairs. Another underwent some repairs and has been operating at reduced capacity, according to the executive director. That line may need further repairs subject to safety testing results due in May.

A third line is out of commission after it burst last year, according to Stebbins. Repairs are not slated to begin on it until later this spring.

The pipeline problems come on top of the utility’s largest storage field, Aliso Canyon, remaining limited in capacity under new safety standards the state set following a gas well blow-out in 2015. The well rupture caused methane to leak into nearby neighborhoods for some four months, forcing evacuations of thousands of homes.

Since then, the company has made extensive repairs to the field near Los Angeles.

—William J. Kelly

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