California changes SoCalGas Aliso natgas storage withdrawal rules

(Reuters) - California utility regulators changed the rules governing when Southern California Gas Co (SoCalGas) can withdraw natural gas from its Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles to address energy reliability and price impacts in Southern California.

The state has limited how SoCalGas can use Aliso, its biggest storage field, following a massive leak at the facility between October 2015 and February 2016.

Under the new withdrawal protocol, which took effect on Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said SoCalGas can pull gas out of Aliso if the amount of fuel in the region’s pipelines is low, Aliso is over 70 percent full during February or March, or the amount of gas in two of the utility’s other storage fields is low.

SoCalGas has four storage fields: Aliso, Honor Rancho, La Goleta and Playa del Rey.

Under the previous withdrawal protocol, which had been in effect since November 2017, the state only allowed SoCalGas to use Aliso as an “asset of last resort” after other alternatives have been exhausted to avoid curtailments of electric load.

Reduced availability of Aliso coupled with limitations on several pipelines has caused gas supplies to be tight in Southern California for years, resulting in gas curtailments to power generators and higher power and gas prices for consumers.

The CPUC said price spikes due to gas shortages last summer caused an $800 million increase in power procurement costs for Southern California Edison.

SoCalGas is a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy, while Southern California Edison is a unit of California energy company Edison International.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Bernadette Baum