Agencies release SoCal winter energy reliability plan

California state and local agencies released an action plan to keep natural gas and electrical service reliable this winter in Southern California while operations remain limited at the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility near Los Angeles. They also scheduled an Aug. 26 public workshop about it in Diamond Bar, east of Los Angeles.

The Southern California Gas Co. operation remains prohibited from injecting and storing more gas until a comprehensive safety review is completed and the facility’s wells are deemed safe or removed from service, the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Independent System Operator, and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power jointly said on Aug. 22.

The action plan found that while risks to energy systems still exist due to the uncertainly of weather and system conditions without Aliso Canyon, conservation and other mitigation measures will help to meet the energy needs of Southern California this winter, they indicated.

Their announcement came as US Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, recommended several steps to the Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources Division in California’s Department of Conservation to strengthen gas storage regulation in the Golden State.

The US Department of Energy and US Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration launched an interagency taskforce to examine gas-storage safety in early April after a leak from the Aliso Canyon storage facility took months to stop and forced the evacuation of the nearby Porter Ranch housing division (OGJ Online, Apr. 4, 2016).

The four agencies said their plan calls for implementing 10 new measures to reduce the possibility of gas and power interruptions this winter. The measures are in addition to ones which were implemented this summer. They include:

• Encouraging gas conservation during cold weather.

• Strengthening the demand response program.

• Extending noncore balancing rules.

• Adding balancing rules for core customers.

• Establishing a maximum consumption level for power generators.

• Requiring reports on restoring pipeline service.

• Identifying additional gas supplies.

• Preparing to buy LNG.

• Updating the Aliso Canyon withdrawal protocol.

• Monitoring gas use at area refineries.

The Aliso Canyon facility, which is the state’s largest and ranks fifth nationwide, has operated for decades to provide gas to local customers and power plants, and has never before been constrained at current levels, the agencies noted. A CPUC order preserved 15 bcf of gas there for use during peak demand periods to avoid energy interruptions.

In his Aug. 22 letter to State Oil and Gas Supervisor Kenneth Harris, Sherman made several suggestions for the division’s gas storage program regulation discussion draft, including the idea that no one gas storage facility should be so large that its closure would adversely affect the statewide economy or cause a significant portion of the state to be without heating, cooling, or electricity.

He also recommended that each well have both a deep subsurface positive pressure safety valve and a surface safety valve so that wells can be shut off in the event of a leak, and that each well be equipped with appropriate gauges and monitors which the public could view online.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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