(Reuters) - California utility regulators recommended increasing the amount of natural gas that Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) can inject into its Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles to help avoid possible shortages this summer and winter, according to a filing late Thursday.
Gas supplies are expected to be tight in Southern California this summer and winter due to the reduced availability of Aliso Canyon, following a massive leak between October 2015 and February 2016, and ongoing shutdown of several pipelines.
The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) said its staff recommended increasing the Aliso Canyon gas storage volume to 34 billion cubic feet (bcf) from the current 24.6 bcf. Before the 2015-2016 leak, Aliso Canyon was able to hold up to 86 bcf, making it the second biggest storage facility in the United States.
One billion cubic feet is enough to fuel about five million U.S. homes for a day.
The PUC said the deadline for those interested in commenting on its recommendation was June 25.
In addition, the PUC asked SoCalGas, which is a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy, whether the state should reduce the utility’s cost recovery for pipelines that are not serving customers.
The PUC said it recommended an increase in the amount of gas in Aliso Canyon due in large part to continuing outages and reductions at several SoCalGas pipelines.
SoCalGas has pipeline outages and reductions on several key pipelines, including Lines 2000, 4000, 5000 and 235-2.
SoCalGas is only expected to be able to deliver about 3.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas from non Aliso storage fields and pipelines this summer. That is 0.2 bcfd less than last summer due to increased pipeline outages, according to federal and state agencies.
If gas demand exceeds 3.6 bcfd, which is common in the winter but has only occurred once in the past five summers, some gas deliveries to power generators may be curtailed, the agencies warned.
The total capacity of SoCalGas’ four storage facilities, including Aliso, declined from 136 bcf before the Aliso leak to 74 bcf now. That would increase to around 83 if the PUC allows the utility to increase the amount of fuel stored in Aliso.
SoCalGas now has about 60.3 bcf of gas in storage and is hoping to increase stockpiles before the winter when homes and businesses use much of the region’s fuel for heating.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Bernadette Baum