February 26, 2018 / 11:26 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-SoCalGas pulls natgas from California Aliso Canyon to meet high demand

(Adds SoCalGas response)

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Southern California Gas pulled natural gas from the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles several times over the past week as consumers cranked up their heaters to escape unseasonably cold weather, SoCalGas said Sunday in a note to pipe customers.

Those were the first withdrawals from Aliso Canyon since July when state regulators allowed the utility to resume injecting fuel into the facility after a closure due to a massive leak from October 2015 to February 2016, the company confirmed on Monday.

"Additional withdrawals from Aliso Canyon may be necessary in the coming days to prevent service interruptions and maintain system integrity during periods of high customer demand associated with the cold weather," Melissa Bailey, a spokeswoman at SoCalGas said.

SoCalGas also warned electric generation customers about gas supply curtailments over the past week and urged homes and businesses to conserve the fuel to avoid straining energy supplies.

SoCalGas is a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy.

Temperatures in Southern California were expected to remain below normal for a second week in a row with highs in Los Angeles forecast to reach the low 60s Fahrenheit (about 16 Celsius), according to meteorologists at AccuWeather.

That compares with a normal high for this time of year of around 70 Fahrenheit.

State energy regulators allowed SoCalGas to start injecting gas into Aliso Canyon in July after the utility upgraded the facility to meet stricter safety requirements. The state, however, limited the amount of fuel the company could store and withdraw to protect public safety.

Several community groups want the state to shut Aliso Canyon but SoCalGas says it is needed to keep the gas system reliable, especially on the coldest days.

Limitations at Aliso Canyon, coupled with outages at three gas pipelines, caused state regulators in November to express concern about the utility's ability to meet customer demand this winter.

One pipeline (Line 235-2) ruptured in October, damaging a second pipe (Line 4000) nearby. Another pipe, Line 3000, was out of service last winter and SoCalGas said it is expected to remain out until May 1.

SoCalGas returned Line 4000 to service in December but it remains operational at reduced pressure, the company said.

State regulators said SoCalGas should be able to support about 4.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of system capacity without pulling gas from Aliso Canyon after Line 4000 returned to service.

One bcfd is enough gas to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes.

When SoCalGas started pulling gas out of Aliso Canyon last week, it forecast usage would top 4.0 bcfd on Feb. 20 and 21. Actual usage last week, however, peaked at 3.9 bcfd on Feb. 19. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York, additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman)

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