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SoCalGas Asks Customers to Conserve in Face of Cold Snap and Storage Limits

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) on Monday issued an advisory to its customers to cut their natural gas use to help assure adequate supplies of gas and electrical power in the midst of low temperatures in the region and concerns for interstate pipeline disruptions.

Earlier this month, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered the creation of the "SoCalGas Advisory" program to help address state agencies' concerns about regional energy reliability this winter due to a moratorium on injection operations at the closed 86-Bcf capacity Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility, the state's largest.

In Monday's advisory, SoCalGas urged residential customers to immediately reduce their natural gas use by lowering thermostats, holding off using some gas appliances, and washing clothes in cold water, noting that 95% of the homes in Southern California use gas for heating and 60% of the electricity consumed in the region comes from gas-fired generation plants.

The Sempra Energy utility also issued a curtailment watch to its large industrial/commercial customers, including power plants. SoCalGas officials said the utility was "meeting system demands utilizing significant storage withdrawal, however, due to severe cold weather conditions throughout the southwestern United States and the SoCalGas service territory, there is a potential for interstate pipeline supply disruptions."

SoCalGas advised its noncore customers that they may be receiving a notice to curtail service.

Last week SoCalGas said it had launched the SoCalGas Advisory as a voluntary notification system "to support the increased demand for natural gas this winter by reducing consumption if an advisory is called," noting that customers could sign up to receive advisories. "In addition to the various notification systems set in place, we continue to make comprehensive infrastructure, technology, and safety enhancements at our Aliso Canyon storage facility," a utility spokesperson said.

"SoCalGas has been working diligently, in compliance with all new regulations, at Aliso Canyon and we remain committed to supporting the community."

As of Dec. 12, SoCalGas said it had completed "extensive physical upgrades and deployed advanced technology to enhance safety" at Aliso Canyon. An ongoing comprehensive well inspection program has resulted in 31 of the 114 storage wells passing rigorous tests; 82 wells in phase two testing and one well plugged and abandoned. Of the 82 wells still undergoing testing, 76 are mechanically sealed and isolated awaiting diagnostic testing, and the other six wells are in diagnostic testing.

SoCalGas also has requested regulatory approval to resume injection operations at Aliso Canyon through approved wells "to replenish the supply of natural gas at the facility to support the heating, cooking, and electricity needs of residents and businesses throughout Southern California."

State officials have indicated they plan to complete their inspection reviews and hold public meetings on SoCalGas' request to resume injections at Aliso Canyon in the first quarter next year.

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