With a focus on wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters, Los Angeles-based Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) on Tuesday released a study distilling best practices that utilities and communities may pursue in future events, including ways to preserve and use existing natural gas infrastructure.
The ICF analysis, underwritten by the Sempra Energy utility, examined energy and transportation disruptions from California wildfires and 2017 hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Interviews with first responders were included.
“There are real and growing risks that energy utilities face,” said ICF’s Susan Asam, project lead and vice president of climate adaptation and resilience.
The 44-page report, "Case Studies of Natural Gas Sector Resilience Following Four Climate-Related Disasters 2017” concluded that "natural gas infrastructure and services exhibited significant resilience to these four disasters due in part to existing system characteristics (underground assets)."
The analysis also provided observations that premature "proactive gas shutoffs" have had the biggest residual impact in disasters. The intersection of natural gas with other systems also can “significantly contribute to system vulnerability."
ICE researchers are advocating for additional research to enhance gas system resiliency and modify utility systems, and they called for expanding utility cross-training, communications and assistance.
Researchers noted that gas systems have not escaped serious impacts, including Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in last year's Northern California wildfires. More exposed electrical infrastructure gas systems appeared to demonstrate more resilience.
ICF cited examples of resiliency in Texas in the face of hurricanes, and in California in the midst of multiple fires.
For example, Texas-based compressed natural gas (CNG) station developer Freedom CNG reported that more than 150 stations all maintained supply during Harvey, with no shortages or price fluctuations. California's state transportation department did not experience natural gas related issues during last year’s wildfires.
SoCalGas said the study offers key insights for creating stronger energy systems, including the need for more coordinated local planning and needs for protection.
“We hope that sharing the results can help enhance resiliency both in California and across the country," said SoCalGas’s Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of customer services and distribution operations.