Gas Storage Facility May Remain Closed

The Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage field, the state’s largest, may have to be shut socalgas_logodown, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission said. His agency has approved gas and electric power conservation efforts aimed at avoiding power outages.

A four-month leak from the 3,600-acre facility operated by Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), which was halted in February, has resulted in problems that the state’s energy utilities will have to deal with for an extended period of time, said CPUC President Michael Picker.

“I am not sure we can say now – given the ongoing investigation and the testing of well integrity – that we know that Aliso will ever come back. Right now I don’t think we can make that statement,” he said.

SoCalGas drew down a substantial portion of the 86-billion-cubic-foot capacity of the storage facility to reduce pressure on the leaking well. Regulators directed the company to keep the field shuttered until all 115 wells on the property have been tested. The utility has proposed that it be allowed to resume injecting gas by mid-year into wells whose integrity has been verified.

Pipeline capacity into the area is limited, so residential, industrial and electric generation uses of natural gas in the Greater Los Angeles area cannot be fully met without access to the storage facility.

With the Aliso Canyon facility offline, state energy officials and utilities have warned that the region could be subject to 14 days of rolling blackouts during the hottest days of the summer.

The CPUC approved an $11 million marketing program by Southern California Edision and SoCalGas aimed at encouraging conservation of gas and electricity. Regulators also authorized the utilities to ramp up existing energy efficiency programs to help their customers put more energy-efficient equipment into operation.

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