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Aliso Resumes Limited NatGas Injections; Summer Withdrawals Possible

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) resumed natural gas injection operations at its Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles on July 31, and summer heat, as well as a pipeline maintenance project, soon could necessitate withdrawals, the Sempra Energy utility said.

In a report released last Friday, SoCalGas said it was taking the action to comply with a directive from the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) "to maintain sufficient natural gas inventories at the field necessary to support the reliability of the region’s natural gas and electricity systems."

The nation's largest gas-only utility plans to provide periodic progress reports online regarding its resumption of activities at Aliso Canyon, a spokesperson said.

California appeals court in July lifted a temporary restraining order that had sought to prevent the facility from reopening. Aliso was cleared to reopen at 28% of maximum capacity after being deemed safe by regulators. Injections had been halted since October 2015.

"Due to increased demand on our system resulting from the hot weather and unplanned maintenance work on a natural gas transmission pipeline in San Bernardino County, it may be necessary to switch our operations and begin withdrawing natural gas from Aliso Canyon," the utility said. "Any withdrawals from the facility will be conducted in accordance with the CPUC's summer withdrawal protocol."

During a 2Q2017 earnings conference call last week, Sempra CEO Debra Reed said SoCalGas officials "remain concerned about system reliability this summer and in the coming winter given the length of time it took to receive the decision, as well as the limitations on targeted gas storage levels” by state officials.

"We are working cooperatively with the agencies to help ensure we safely operate the Aliso Canyon storage field within the authority we have been granted," she said.

The SoCalGas progress report said the utility "routinely switches" between injections and withdrawals at its storage facilities to meet changing customer needs, including electric generators.

"If this change becomes necessary for the reasons listed above, or for other conditions that require withdrawals to support energy reliability, we will resume injections at Aliso Canyon as soon as system conditions allow, to meet the CPUC’s directive to increase inventory at the field," the spokesperson said.

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