Oct 5 California state regulators have reduced
the required amount of natural gas that must be available for
withdrawal from the Aliso Canyon storage facility, which
Southern California Gas said could hasten the return to service
of the field that was shut after a massive methane leak in 2015.
SoCalGas, a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy
, shut its biggest storage field in October 2015, due to
a massive methane leak that displaced thousands of residents and
forced entire neighborhoods to be evacuated. The leak was not
plugged until February.
The state required the utility to keep 15 billion cubic feet
of gas in the 86-bcf facility, with gas to be withdrawn only in
an emergency to guard against blackouts and prevent the region's
power plants from running out of fuel.
There were no blackouts over the latest summer, in part
because power consumers reduced usage and actual temperatures
during a heat wave in June were not as hot as forecast.
With the weather moderating, the California Public Utilities
Commission (PUC) last week reduced the required minimum
withdrawal capability SoCalGas must maintain at Aliso Canyon
from 420 million cubic feet per day to 207 mmcfd.
Before the leak, Aliso Canyon was able to deliver almost 1.9
bcfd, according to federal data.
"The reduction in required withdrawal capacity means fewer
wells must be kept ready for withdrawal, and may assist in more
quickly completing the state-mandated comprehensive safety
review and safely resume injection operations at the facility,"
Melissa Bailey, a spokeswoman at SoCalGas, said.
Under state law, SoCalGas cannot inject gas into Aliso
Canyon until the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal
Resources (DOGGR) approves the company's testing of the 114
wells at the facility to ensure their safety.
In addition to DOGGR, the PUC must also determine the field
is safe to operate.
According to its latest report on Sept. 16, SoCalGas said 23
wells passed all safety tests, 15 awaited test results and 76
were temporarily out of operation.
All wells must either pass all tests or be taken out of
service before DOGGR can call a public meeting. Since DOGGR must
give the public 15 days notice before a meeting, SoCalGas would
not be able to start injecting gas into the field until late
October at the earliest.
Bailey could not say when SoCalGas would complete the well
tests, noting "Our focus is on safely completing the review
process...not to meet a specific date."
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio)