Southern California Gas Co. resumed withdrawing natural gas from its Aliso Canyon storage facility on Tuesday in the northwest San Fernando Valley because of higher demand fueled by colder weather, the company said.
The announcement came one day after the utility issued an advisory asking its 21.6 million customers to “immediately” reduce their natural gas use amid the cold to prevent possible gas and electricity shortages.
Although a moratorium has been in place on injections at Aliso Canyon as a result of a leak that was halted last February, state regulators allow the utility to withdraw gas from wells that have passed inspections under certain conditions to ensure energy reliability, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.
“While the rain had stopped ... we had fairly cold weather (Tuesday) morning, and I think if you look at the weather forecast going forward, we’ll likely experience the same cold mornings for the next two days,” Rodger R. Schwecke, SoCalGas’ vice president of gas transmission and storage, said Tuesday. “Based on our system demand and the available supplies we had flowing into the system and utilization of all of our other storage fields ... we needed Aliso Canyon for part of the morning.”
Schwecke did not say how much natural gas was withdrawn Tuesday from the Aliso Canyon field and said that information would be released once the utility had notified the CPUC by this morning.
It was the first time natural gas has been withdrawn from the 3,600-acre underground storage field since January 2016, and the wells that were used “passed all of the tests required” by the state’s comprehensive safety review prompted by the massive gas leak, SoCalGas said in a statement. In June, the CPUC authorized the utility to use the remaining 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas at the site to help prevent service reductions.
To help with natural gas conservation, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power made changes to reduce its use of natural gas Tuesday afternoon and evening by using “more locally generated hydropower” at its Castaic pump station, Joseph Ramallo, an LADWP spokesman, said in an email Tuesday.
Besides the voluntary advisory for all customers, SoCalGas also issued a systemwide “curtailment watch” that started Monday for their large commercial and industrial customers, including power plants in the L.A. Basin, advising them that they may be required to curb natural gas use in the future due to strains on the system.
Should this occur, energy providers, including LADWP, would use other available energy sources to make up for the lack of natural gas, Ramallo said.
Both the SoCalGas advisory and the curtailment watch were in effect until further notice, according to the company.
Issam Najm, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, which formally asked Gov. Jerry Brown in November to help permanently shut down Aliso Canyon, said he understands that withdrawals will take place occasionally from the facility that sits above his community.
“The real question is when are we going to wake up and say, ‘let’s make the changes we need so we don’t have these massive storage facilities in urban areas that people are exposed to?’” he said.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger introduced a motion Tuesday urging the board to support state Senate Bill 146, which would extend the prohibition of gas injection into the wells in Aliso Canyon until officials identify the cause of the leak and release those findings to the public. “This bill ensures that every effort is made to find and address the root cause of the leak last year, which forced thousands from their homes, caused serious health concerns and disrupted countless lives,” Barger said.
Los Angeles Councilman Mitchell Englander recently submitted a similar motion to the city council.
Sam Atwood, a spokesman with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said his agency received 10 odor complaints on Sunday, two on Monday and 17 on Tuesday morning alleging that the SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility was the source of the odors. The agency’s inspectors responded to complaints on all three days but could not detect any odors on Sunday or Monday, Atwood said.
They did briefly detect “natural gas-odorant-type odors” early Tuesday in the area of Sesnon Boulevard and Tampa Avenue near the entrance of the SoCalGas facility but inspectors later examined the facility and did not detect any odors there, Atwood said.
The agency’s air monitors at the facility fence line have not detected any elevated levels of methane, he added.