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SoCalGas completes more natgas well tests at Calif. Aliso Canyon

Oct 10 Southern California Gas Co is waiting for final safety test results from fewer than 10 wells at its Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Los Angeles before state agencies can allow the company to inject fuel into the field, according to a report posted Monday.

SoCalGas shut Aliso Canyon in October 2015 due to a massive methane leak that was not plugged until February.

Under state law, the gas utility cannot inject fuel into the field until the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) approves the company's testing of the 114 wells at the facility to ensure their safety.

SoCalGas is owned by California energy company Sempra Energy . Aliso Canyon is the biggest of its four storage fields. It supplies gas to homes and businesses in Southern California, including power plants and refineries.

According to its latest report on Oct. 7, SoCalGas said 27 wells passed all safety tests, nine awaited results and 78 were temporarily out of operation.

All wells must either pass all tests or be taken out of service before DOGGR can call a public meeting. Since DOGGR must give the public 15 days notice before a meeting, SoCalGas could not start injecting gas into Aliso Canyon until some time in late October at the earliest.

In addition to DOGGR, the California Public Utilities Commission must also determine the field is safe to operate.

The state required SoCalGas to keep 15 billion cubic feet of gas in the 86-bcf facility to minimize the risk of gas shortages that could result in electricity outages.

Once enough wells have passed all tests and received DOGGR approval to meet the PUC's withdrawal requirements, SoCalGas said it will temporarily plug the remaining wells and take them out of service.

The PUC in late September reduced the required minimum withdrawal capability SoCalGas must maintain from 420 million cubic feet per day to 207 mmcfd, which the utility said would likley enable it to speed up the testing process.

Once those wells have been plugged and isolated from the reservoir, SoCalGas can request authority to resume injections. The company has not said when it planned to make that request.

At that point, DOGGR and the PUC would be able to undertake their review and certification process, which will include a public hearing, as provided by state Senate Bill 380, prior to SoCalGas resuming injections.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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