July 9, 2018 / 3:45 PM / 11 days ago

SoCalGas lifts natgas curtailment watch after California heat wave

July 9 (Reuters) - Southern California Gas Co said it would end a natural gas curtailment watch on Monday as the heat wave blanketing Southern California starts to dissipate.

High temperatures in Los Angeles were expected to return to near normal levels around 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) by the end of the week after reaching 108 on Friday, 104 on Saturday, 98 on Sunday and 95 on Monday, according to AccuWeather.

Last week, SoCalGas, a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy, warned customers that they may have to reduce gas use during the heat wave. The utility, however, did not issue a curtailment notice.

Gas supplies are expected to remain tight in Southern California this summer and winter due to reduced availability of SoCalGas' Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles, following a massive leak between October 2015 and February 2016, and ongoing shutdowns of several pipelines.

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week approved an increase in the Aliso Canyon gas storage volume to 34 billion cubic feet (bcf) from 24.6 bcf. Before the 2015-2016 leak, Aliso Canyon was able to hold up to 86 bcf, making it the second biggest storage facility in the United States.

One billion cubic feet is enough to fuel about five million U.S. homes for a day.

The PUC said it increased the amount of gas that can be stored in Aliso Canyon to give SoCalGas time to inject fuel into the facility to reduce the potential for gas curtailments this winter when demand peaks.

Consumers in California use more gas in the winter for heating than during the summer when much of it is used to fuel power plants to produce electricity to run air conditioners.

With the increase in the amount of gas that can be stored in Aliso Canyon, the total amount of fuel that can be stored in SoCalGas' four facilities increased to 83 bcf from 74 bcfd. Before the Aliso leak, the four facilities could hold 136 bcf.

SoCalGas' inventories dipped to 62.7 bcf on Monday from a seasonal high of 63.1 bcfd on July 4 as power companies pulled some fuel out to meet air conditioning demand.

That is much higher than this time last year when SoCalGas' had just 50.1 bcf stockpiled, but it is near the bottom of the five-year (2012-2016) range of between 61.5 bcf-130.5 bcf.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy

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