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SoCalGas says natural gas may be curtailed due to cold snap

(Reuters) - Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) on Tuesday warned it may have to curtail natural gas supplies and reiterated its plea to customers to use less of the fuel until further notice to avoid straining its system as cold weather blankets its service area.

The company issued a system-wide curtailment watch, which puts customers on notice that they “may be required to reduce their gas use if a curtailment is issued.”

SoCalGas later in the day announced a curtailment for power generation customers on the company’s system that would be imposed at 12 a.m. (0800 GMT) Wednesday, citing forecasts for low temperatures and high customer demand.

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 started pulling gas out of Aliso at 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 withdrawing gas from Aliso to avoid removing too much fuel from its other storage facilities.

Overnight temperatures in Los Angeles are expected to drop as low as 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) Tuesday-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 around 4.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Wednesday and Thursday, up from 3.9 bcfd on Tuesday, according to SoCalGas. Last week, demand averaged 2.8 bcfd.

One billion cubic feet is enough to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for a day on average.

SoCalGas, a unit of Sempra Energy, said limitations the state imposed on Aliso were the primary reason supplies were tight.

The utility said Aliso limitations reduced supplies by over 1 bcfd, while ongoing work on three pipes, 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 715 report in July.

In total, SoCalGas has about 55.0 billion cubic feet 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) average of 60.3 bcf.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Tom Brown and Tom Hogue

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