(Reuters) – Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) over the weekend urged customers to use less natural gas until further notice to avoid straining its system as colder weather covers its service area.
Gas supplies have been tight in Southern California this winter because of limitations on several SoCalGas pipelines and reduced availability of the utility’s biggest storage field at Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles, following a massive leak between October 2015 and February 2016.
After the leak, the state mandated Aliso can be used only to maintain system reliability after all other storage facilities and pipelines have been exhausted.
SoCalGas has been pulling gas out of Aliso since the start of the year to avoid curtailing supplies to some non-core customers like electric generators and large industrial businesses.
The utility said it has continued pulling gas from Aliso to avoid removing too much fuel form its other storage facilities.
Overnight temperatures in Los Angeles are expected to drop as low as 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) Monday-Wednesday before rising to near normal levels later in the week, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather. The normal low in Los Angeles is 49 degrees at this time of year.
Consumer gas demand is expected to peak near 3.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Tuesday, up from 3.5 bcfd on Monday, according to SoCalGas. Last week, demand averaged around 2.8 bcfd.
One billion cubic feet is enough to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for a day on average.
SoCalGas said the primary reason supplies are tight was the limitations the state imposed on Aliso Canyon.
The utility said Aliso limitations reduced supplies by over 1 bcfd, while ongoing work on three pipelines, Lines 235-2, 3000 and 4000, resulted in a total reduction of about 0.7 bcfd.
SoCalGas can get about 2.7-3.3 bcfd from its pipes and the rest from storage, according to the state’s latest Aliso Canyon 715 report in July.
In total, SoCalGas has about 56.0 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas left in its four storage facilities, including Aliso, according to its website. That compares with 58.8 bcf at this time last year and a five-year (2013-2017) of 60.3 bcf.
If needed, Aliso can deliver around 1.0 bcfd. But like all storage facilities, the amount of gas it can provide will decline rapidly as pressure in the cavern decreases when the utility pulls fuel out.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino