SoCalGas Pursues Expanded Pipe Replacement, Repair Program; Utility to Accelerate Repair of Non-Hazardous Leaks, Reduce Emissions

Posts Online Map of Methane Emissions to Aid Public Awareness

May 14, 2015

LOS ANGELES, May 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is seeking to accelerate its pipeline replacement and leak repair program and has submitted a funding request with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). If approved, it would enable SoCalGas to repair all currently identified, pending non-hazardous leaks on the SoCalGas system by the end of 2018 or earlier.

SoCalGas is also filing a report with the CPUC that outlines the utility's leak-management practices in compliance with Senate Bill (SB) 1371. The new California law seeks to reduce methane emissions from natural gas transmission, distribution and storage systems. It also requires utilities to report information about leak-management practices, new leaks, leaks being monitored, leaks scheduled for repair and a "best estimate" of gas loss due to leaks.

"SoCalGas has a longstanding commitment to reducing methane emissions, and we are proud to have one of the lowest natural gas leak rates of any utility in the nation," said Bret Lane, chief operating officer of SoCalGas. "We are working to make our system even safer, tighter and part of the solution to improving the environment."

Over the past year, SoCalGas has been working with major universities, regulatory agencies and environmental organizations to refine its approach in methane detection technology and to raise public awareness of its efforts to reduce methane emissions.

As part of this effort, SoCalGas today published an interactive map on its website that allows the public to view methane indications and non-hazardous gas leaks located near its pipeline system. Federal regulations consider a non-hazardous leak to be one that is far from an ignition source and away from a structure where the gas can accumulate and become concentrated to dangerous levels. All hazardous leaks are repaired immediately and do not appear on the map.

With safety as a core priority, SoCalGas focuses ratepayers' funds toward strategically replacing pipe as prioritized through engineering studies. By this infrastructure strategy, SoCalGas has succeeded in maintaining safety and reducing its rate of overall methane emissions to 0.12 percent of all gas delivered in 2011, one of the lowest rates in the nation. A Washington State University study published March 31, 2015, in Environmental Science & Technology found methane emissions from U.S. local natural gas distribution systems, including SoCalGas', are 36 to 70 percent lower than current estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

SoCalGas also participated in EDF's methane mapping project which applied a "top down" methodology using car-mounted sensors to take air samples to detect methane levels. The method shows methane concentrations in the air. Using the same car-mounted technology, SoCalGas conducted its own ambient measurements and supplemented those with "boots-on-the-ground" leak surveys. Trained SoCalGas technicians walked along the pipeline system to do "bottom up" detection. Often, between 40-50 percent of the time, there was no correlation between ambient methane detected by the EDF project and an actual system leak.

"Often methane comes from other sources, like biological sources, or field gas, which is common in Southern California," said Deanna Haines, director of gas engineering at SoCalGas. "In fact, according to the state's 2012 inventory, biological sources represent 87 percent of the total methane emissions to the atmosphere. SoCalGas believes regulatory focus on these large sources of methane can enable capture and delivery into the pipeline system, providing a low carbon energy resource for customer use." 

As one of the first local natural gas delivery companies to join the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in reducing emissions in 1993, SoCalGas is considered a leader in reducing methane emissions. SoCalGas has implemented best management practices resulting in the reduction of more than 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Additionally, SoCalGas' modernization program has upgraded pressure valves, eliminated all cast-iron pipe and installed resilient plastic pipe throughout half of its system.

"Reducing methane emissions is a shared responsibility," said Haines. "SoCalGas will continue to work with scientists, universities and organizations like EDF to advance these efforts. We believe more should be done to encourage policies and incentivize projects that lead to the capture of methane from larger sources. Research shows bio-methane from biological sources can be captured, refined and delivered via natural gas pipelines to help reduce California's overall carbon footprint."

For more information, or to view the map, visit socalgas.com and search "methane map."

About Southern California Gas Co.

Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years. It is the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, providing service to 21.4 million consumers connected through 5.9 million meters in more than 500 communities. The company's service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles throughout central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border. Southern California Gas Co. is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego. 

Southern California Gas Co. is the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.9 million consumers through nearly 5.8 million meters in more than 500 communities. The company's service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border. Southern California Gas Co. is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy

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SOURCE Southern California Gas Co.

For further information: Denise King | SoCalGas 24-Hour Media Hotline: 877.643.2331 | socalgas.com/news-room | @SoCalGasNews