No Agreement on Solving San Diego Gas Crunch

By Published On: November 20, 2014

San Diego County, and adjoining areas in Imperial and Riverside Counties, face growing natural gas supply constraints, but there’s disagreement about how to overcome them. That’s the picture that emerged Nov. 18 during a California Energy Commission workshop on natural gas infrastructure. Constraints can arise because of limited pipeline capacity coming into the area, according to Beth Musich, SoCal Gas director of gas operations staff. The danger of supply shortfalls is greatest when cold weather drives an increase in use of gas for heating and electricity simultaneously. In response to such circumstances, the utility has had to curtail gas supplies a few days in recent years, she explained. For instance, she explained that on Feb. 11, 2011, SoCal Gas was unable to get gas from El Paso through its Ehrenberg delivery point along the Colorado River due to a deep freeze that blanketed the Southwest and drove up demand for the fuel. Last winter, too, the utility faced a tough time getting enough gas to the state’s southern-most area, she said. To ease the supply crunch, Musich explained, the company is proposing to build a $622 million pipeline that runs from Adelanto to Moreno. That pipeline would interconnect with other gas supply lines coming into California from points east and north, she said, as well as to a major gas storage facility the company operates. She said it would be capable of transporting 800 million cubic feet a day of gas to the southern-most area of the state, almost a fifth of the company’s record demand. The project, according to Musich, would raise gas rates for customers of SoCal Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric, both owned by Sempra Energy, by about 1 percent. If approved, it could be built and operational by 2020. However, in seeking California Public Utilities Commission approval of the pipeline, the company faces three competing projects proposed by Kinder Morgan, TransWestern Pipeline, and Northern Baja Pipeline. Representatives of those companies told the Energy Commission they could build their competing pipelines to bring new gas supplies to San Diego and surrounding areas quicker and for less money. Others advocated for “non-physical” approaches to managing supply in that part of the state. Hanna & Morton attorney Norman Pedersen, for instance, questioned the wisdom of the utility building a $622 million pipeline that would operate for more than 60 years when state policy calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. He suggested that changes in contracting procedures and other less expensive measures could prevent curtailments except, perhaps, during extreme cold snaps that on average occur only once every 30 years. The Energy Commission held the meeting as part of its effort to prepare a report to the Legislature on how to maximize the benefits of natural gas in California under AB 1257, a bill enacted in 2013. The Energy Commission hopes to complete its legislatively-mandated report in a year. It also is to examine use of natural gas as a transportation fuel, how to use more biogas, and other gas-related topics.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now