California Proposes Rules for Natural Gas Storage Fields

Energy and Climate Report provides current, thorough coverage of clean energy, efficiency, and climate change legislation, regulation, policy, legal developments, and trends in the U.S. and...

By Carolyn Whetzel

July 11 — More stringent construction standards for wells are among new requirements for natural gas storage fields included in a regulatory proposal by California oil and gas officials.

Workshops are planned for August in Sacramento and Los Angeles to gather public input on the early draft of permanent regulations to replace emergency rules adopted in response to the massive leak at Southern California Gas Co.'s storage facility in Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles.

Released July 8, the “early draft” would continue requiring daily inspections of wellheads using infrared imaging leak detection technology and tests to verify well integrity, the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) said.

California has 14 underground natural gas storage projects in 12 fields with about 350 active wells, state officials said.

“This preliminary draft of regulations updates construction and operating standards of gas storage wells, introduces new data and monitoring requirements for storage facilities, and ensures adequate risk management and emergency response plans at each storage facility,” State Oil & Gas Supervisor Ken Harris said in a written statement. “Our emphasis is to ensure public safety and environmental protection during the operation of these facilities.”

The proposal calls for considerations and requirements related to “tubing and packer and sub-surface safety valves on all wells; more frequent testing, including the thickness of casing wall thickness and pressure tests at least every two years; and detailed risk management plans covering a wide range issues, including well fires and blowouts, hazardous material spills, explosions, natural disasters, geologic hazards such as earthquakes and emergency response.

“We received the new DOGGR regulations Friday and are reviewing them,” Chris Gilbride, SoCalGas spokesman, told Bloomberg BNA in a July 11 e-mail. SoCalGas is a Sempra Energy utility.

“SoCalGas supports efforts to enhance the safety of all natural gas storage facilities, including reasonable forward-looking laws and regulations at both the state and federal level that adopt best practices for our facilities,” Gilbride said.

Other Pending Proposals

The Environmental Protection Agency has said it will issue final regulations for gas storage fields this summer.

At a public hearing July 21, California Air Resources Board will present to its governing board proposed regulations designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations, including gas storage facilities.

A final vote on CARB's rules is planned for next year.

DOGGR said it will update the proposal after two public workshops and an initial 30-day comment period. Written comments are due Aug. 11.

The first public workshop is 1-5 p.m., Aug. 9, at the Natural Resources Building auditorium, 1416 Ninth St. in Sacramento. A second workshop is 1-5 p.m., Aug. 11, at the Hilton Woodland Hills, 6360 Canoga Ave., Woodland Hills in Los Angeles County.

A formal rulemaking process, which will include an additional comment period, is expected to begin later this summer or in early fall, DOGGR said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carolyn Whetzel in Los Angeles at cwhetzel@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.