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California NatGas Consumption Likely Topped 3 Bcf/d in Last Week’s Heat Wave

In the midst of a week-long heat wave that peaked last Friday, California just missed setting an all-time electricity demand record, but in the process likely topped the 3 Bcf/d natural gas volume level for power burn, according to Genscape Inc.

Power demand hit 50,116 MW last Friday, short of the forecast high of 51,004 MW, which would have exceeded the 50,270 MW of July 24, 2006.

Genscape estimated that the gas for power volume last Friday was expected to “end up at a 2.6 Bcf gas day,” and possibly peak on Saturday at 3.1 Bcf, given the cooling degree-day demand forecast, “and it could fall to around 2.8 Bcf next week," Genscape data scientist Michael Rice told NGI. Rice said the estimates were based on historical relationships between California's gas burn and state grid supplies from gas-fired sources.

While there are no definitive numbers on the gas supplies volumes used to generate power, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) estimated its overall load in the north at 1.1 Bcf. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) last Friday also said all the needed gas-fired generators were online to compensate for the decline of gas supply from the Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage facility operated by Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas).

"SoCalGas has handled the gas load," a CAISO spokesperson said. The Sempra Energy utility last week had issued a curtailment watch, but in the end did not curtail any units. "If there is a need to withdraw gas, CAISO must first take steps, including declaring an emergency and triggering demand response programs -- steps short of load-shedding -- and then ask for Aliso withdrawals to support the Los Angeles Basin.

"We are in regular contact with the Los Angeles Basin gas generators  as well as SoCalGas in coordinating our efforts," the spokesperson said. Last Friday the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had an all-time demand of more than 6,900 MW.

"We are regularly in contact with CAISO regarding our daily gas consumption rates and our projections have aligned well," a PG&E spokesperson said. "We have sufficient system inventory including storage to meet any unexpected needs."

CAISO and the California Public Utilities Commission had issued public service warnings to consumers last week, noting that forecasts called for "record demand load on Friday and all available resources are online and ready to respond."

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