(Reuters) - Facing a colder winter than usual, Southern California Gas said it will pull more natural gas from the Aliso Canyon storage facility, which has been treated as an asset of last resort since a massive leak in 2015-16 resulted in evacuation of a neighborhood.
SoCalGas, a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy, said it needs to draw gas from Aliso Canyon so it can limit reductions at other storage caverns to preserve supplies in case the weather remains cold later this winter.
“We are experiencing colder weather than last winter and already have less gas in our non-Aliso storage fields than this time last year,” SoCalGas said in a filing with state regulators made available this week.
The utility said it needs gas from its storage fields to bolster what its pipelines can deliver to meet consumer heating demand on the coldest winter days. Aliso is the biggest field for SoCalGas, but the utility is limited in what it can pull out of Aliso following the massive leak between October 2015 and February 2016.
After the leak, the state mandated Aliso can be used only to maintain system reliability after all other storage facilities and pipelines have been exhausted.
“If Southern California experiences persistent cold weather conditions...our storage assets will not be positioned to respond, unless we act now,” SoCalGas said in explaining why it would pull more gas out of Aliso to preserve supplies in other caverns.
Gas supplies were expected to remain tight in Southern California this winter due to limitations on several SoCalGas pipelines and reduced availability of Aliso.
SoCalGas projected demand would average 2.8 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) for the rest of January. Most of that gas will come from other regions flowing into the state on the utility’s pipelines, but some will have to come from its storage facilities.
On Jan. 2, for example, the utility’s pipelines delivered just 2.3 bcfd of the system’s 3.5 bcfd of demand. The rest came from storage.
SoCalGas said its non-Aliso storage fields were only able to deliver 0.880 bcfd, down from 1.036 bcfd before Dec. 26.
The SoCalGas website said about 60.3 bcf of gas is left in storage, most of it in Aliso, down from 62.2 bcf a year ago and well off the five-year (2014-2018) average of 69.2 bcf.
SoCalGas has also urged consumers to reduce gas use, especially when temperatures are extremely cold, and has worked with electric grid operators to limit the amount of gas power plants burn.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio