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SoCalGas Applies Advanced Methane Detection Technology

Under criticism in some quarters for its efforts to curb methane emissions from its pipeline and storage system, Sempra Energy's Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) launched pipeline and storage mitigation and monitoring systems this past weekend that promise improvements in reducing leaks.

For a pipeline replacement project in west Los Angeles under a busy thoroughfare, SoCalGas said it is using an innovative system to capture methane that is normally released during pipeline replacement. The gas emptied from the pipeline, which is normally vented, is being saved for later use, eliminating noise and emissions at the worksite.

Separately, at SoCalGas' controversial and now-idled Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility, a new interactive online tool was launched Saturday, allowing the public to view data from a network of eight methane monitors at the periphery of the 3,600-acre site. Methane levels near nearby homes are measured around-the-clock.

An interactive online tool displays a map indicating the locations of the fence-line monitors, a SoCalGas spokesperson said. "By clicking on any of those icons, users can view a chart with data showing methane levels recorded every five minutes over the past 24-hour period.

At the pipeline replacement project, which was set to be completed Monday, SoCalGas expects to capture about 190 Mcf of gas, or roughly equivalent to volumes used by 940 homes each day. The utility successfully tested the methane capture system last September during a pipeline replacement in the central California town of Atascadero, north of San Luis Obispo.

"This methane capture system reduces emissions and helps minimize the impact of our work on the community," said Rick Phillips, senior director for SoCalGas' multi-billion-dollar pipeline safety enhancement plan. Phillips reiterated the gas-only utility's five-year capital expenditure program calls for spending $6 billion, or about $1.2 billion this year for improvements in its distribution, transmission and storage infrastructure.

SoCalGas supports a new state law (SB 1383) mandating a 40% reduction in methane leaks from all sources and the recently adopted California Air Resources Board short-lived climate pollutant plan.

In a report earlier this month by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), SoCalGas was accusedof "dragging its feet" compared to other utility efforts in the state to identify and stop methane leaks. These are charges that SoCalGas officials have strongly disagreed with, contending that they are championing "many new technologies that allow the company to detect and repair non-hazardous leaks more quickly than ever."

At the Aliso Canyon storage facility, where critics allege leaks go on unchecked, SoCalGas is urging local residents and the general public to visit its website to check out the new methane monitoring data. Lisa Alexander, vice president for customer solutions/communications, said the tool offers real-time information and supplements the single-monitoring station maintained by residents of the nearby Porter Ranch community.

SoCalGas said that it has been supporting the development of various new methane detection/reduction technologies, such as fiber optic cable that detects leaks and third-party damages; infrared sensors; drones; and algorithms using the utility's advanced meter system.

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