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California seeks to avoid power outages after Aliso Canyon gas leak

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Electrical generators in the greater Los Angeles area face up to 14 days of natural gas shortages severe enough to cause blackouts this summer in the aftermath of the months-long methane leak from the Aliso Canyon gas storage field, state energy officials warned on Tuesday.

[LOS ANGELES] Electrical generators in the greater Los Angeles area face up to 14 days of natural gas shortages severe enough to cause blackouts this summer in the aftermath of the months-long methane leak from the Aliso Canyon gas storage field, state energy officials warned on Tuesday.

Forecasting the possibility of widespread power disruptions as warm-weather electricity demand peaks across the region, state regulators called for greater conservation and other measures to help offset lost gas supplies from the facility, which has been partially shut down indefinitely.

Aliso Canyon, owned by Southern California Gas Co, a division of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, is the fourth-largest underground gas reserve of its kind in the United States.

The company normally pumps excess natural gas into storage wells deep below the 3,600-acre field during times of low energy use and draws on those supplies when needed to meet the demands of local gas customers and electric power plants.

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But following a prolonged gas leak at the site that forced thousands of local residents from their homes, the facility has been barred from storing any more gas until a thorough safety review is finished and the wells are either deemed safe or removed from service.

The pipeline rupture, detected on Oct 23 and not plugged until mid-February, ranked as the largest methane release in US history, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 600,000 cars, researchers found.

Operational constraints since placed on Aliso Canyon, long a key energy supplier for the LA Basin as a whole, will expose the region to shortages during periods of highest demand, regulators said in their report on Tuesday.

The accompanying plan for addressing the shortage was devised jointly by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state's power grid, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The CPUC would have authority under the plan to permit release of 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas still stored at Aliso Canyon as needed to avoid blackouts. And it calls for various conservation measures by customers and utilities to make the most of the region's energy supplies during summer.

Those actions "will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of gas shortages this summer that are large enough to cause electricity interruptions for the region's residents and businesses," the report concludes.

Environmentalists have seized on the Aliso Canyon disaster and its aftermath to call attention to the hazards of what they say is a continued over-reliance on fossil fuel energy and the aging infrastructure used for storing and shipping oil and gas.

REUTERS

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