Major gas leak in Southern California could cause rolling blackouts

Posted at 3:41 PM, Apr 05, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A massive natural gas well blowout last year that crippled a major energy supply for Southern California could lead to blackouts in the region over 14 days this summer, state officials said Tuesday.

State agencies that studied the impact of the partial shutdown of the Aliso Canyon gas storage field near Los Angeles proposed a series of measures to prevent blackouts, but concluded they "will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of gas shortages this summer that are large enough to cause electricity interruptions for the region's residents and businesses."

The report anticipated a typical summer without other supply problems. If it's hotter than usual, or other problems crop up, the risk of blackouts would increase.

The report also said up to 18 days of outages could occur in the winter, though further study is needed.

The Southern California Gas Co. facility is the largest natural gas storage area in the West. It provides gas for home and business heating in winter and helps power electric plants in summer when energy demand spikes for air conditioning and other uses.

The facility has not fully operated since a massive leak was discovered in October that last almost four months and spewed what scientists said was the largest-known release of methane.

State officials are investigating the cause of the leak and have ordered the gas company to test all 114 wells before it can resume storing gas deep underground.

The field still has some gas in it and one of the plans to prevent power outages calls for using that gas, as well as seeking more energy efficiency and asking residents to conserve.