SoCalGas' Innovative Natural Gas Capture System Conserves More Than 2.5 Million Cubic Feet of Natural Gas to Date

Methane-reducing technology reduces emissions and saves enough natural gas to fuel more than 12,500 U.S. homes

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 19, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) today announced the utility had achieved a new milestone with its innovative natural gas capture system, conserving a total of more than 2.5 million cubic feet of natural gas – the equivalent to what more than 12,500 homes use each day on average in the U.S. – since first deploying the technique in August 2016. When crews perform work on a pipeline, some natural gas inside the pipe must be released for safety. Instead of being released into the atmosphere, the natural gas is captured, compressed, and reinjected back into the utility's pipeline system for use by SoCalGas customers. The innovative process reduces emissions and eliminates noise and odor that typically occur in the traditional venting process during pipeline replacement or inspection work. The methane capture technique was one of the best practices included in the utility's Leak Abatement Compliance Plan approved on October 12 by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Photos from one of the natural gas capture projects are available here.

Behind the generator (left, foreground), which uses natural gas to provide the electrical needs for the compressed natural gas (CNG) compressor and the control panel, is the 9-bottle storage trailer for the tanks of CNG captured by the system.

"For more than 25 years, SoCalGas has been working hard to reduce emissions from its operations, and because of many practices, like the gas capture system, we have one of the lowest methane emission rates of any natural gas distribution company in the country," said David Buczkowski, vice president of gas engineering and system integrity for SoCalGas. "We are pleased that the CPUC responded positively to the compliance plan and best practices we submitted earlier this year, and believe the approved plan will assist our efforts to further reduce emissions."

The methane capture technique was first trialed through SoCalGas' Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP), a multi-year program that identifies various high pressure pipeline sections throughout SoCalGas' system and schedules them to be pressure-tested or replaced.

SoCalGas is a leader in reducing emissions from its system, delivering more than 99.5 percent of the natural gas brought into its pipelines. The utility deploys a suite of advanced technologies to detect and mitigate potential leaks and damage to pipelines, including: 

  • Real-time monitoring of transmission pipelines from state-of-the-art Gas Control Center;
  • Fiber optic cables that detect methane leaks and third-party damage to pipelines in real-time;
  • Infrared cameras to check for leaks in newly-installed pipelines;
  • Aerial leak surveys from both aircraft and drones;
  • Infrared "point" sensors that can detect leaks even before smell is detected;
  • In-line inspections tools, or "smart pigs";
  • External corrosion surveying; and
  • Algorithms that use Advanced Meter system to identify unusual levels of natural gas consumption.

In 1993, SoCalGas was one of the first local gas distribution companies to join Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Natural Gas STAR Program, an effort by the EPA to promote the development and adoption of technologies and best practices to reduce methane emissions. Since joining STAR, SoCalGas has voluntarily implemented dozens of cost-effective, methane reduction projects that have resulted in the reduction of more than 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

Addressing California's Emissions with Renewable Natural Gas

Nationwide, emissions from natural gas pipeline systems, like SoCalGas', represent less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Most of California's methane emissions—about 80 percent—come from the agriculture and waste industries. Because of this, SoCalGas has been working to rapidly expand the production and use of renewable natural gas (RNG) in California.

Earlier this year, SoCalGas announced that RNG derived from organic waste from sources like dairies, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills was being introduced into the utility's pipeline system. RNG is a carbon-negative fuel produced from waste found at landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and agriculture and dairy farms that can be used in trucks and buses, to generate electricity, fuel heating systems in home and businesses, and for cooking.

New research shows that RNG can play an important role in lowering carbon emissions in buildings. The analysis forecasts that replacing roughly 16 percent of the traditional natural gas supply with RNG can achieve greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to converting 100 percent of buildings to electric-only energy by 2030. By using a mix of both in and out of state resources, RNG strategy is three times more cost effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than an electrification pathway.

SoCalGas recently joined a new international collaboration with Canadian natural gas utility Énergir and French utilities GRDF and GRTgaz aimed at advancing the research and development of renewable natural gas and renewable energy storage technologies, such as power-to-gas.

To help educate the public on renewable natural gas and assist developers who may be interested in interconnecting to the SoCalGas pipeline network, the utility developed a downloadable toolkit. Watch this video to learn more about the environmental and cost-saving benefits of renewable natural gas: Digesting the Facts About Renewable Natural Gas.

About SoCalGas
Headquartered in Los Angeles, SoCalGas® is the largest natural gas distribution utility in the United States. SoCalGas delivers affordable, reliable, clean and increasingly renewable natural gas service to 21.8 million customers across 24,000 square miles of Central and Southern California, where more than 90 percent of residents use natural gas for heating, hot water, cooking, drying clothes or other uses. Natural gas delivered through the company's pipelines also plays a key role in providing electricity to Californians—about 60 percent of electric power generated in the state comes from gas-fired power plants.  

SoCalGas is committed to investing in its natural gas system infrastructure, while keeping bills affordable for our customers. From 2013 through 2017, the company spent nearly $6 billion to upgrade and modernize its natural gas system to enhance safety and reliability. The company is also committed to being a leader in the region's clean energy future, and is working to accelerate the use of renewable natural gas from dairy farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants and the development of renewable energy storage technologies. SoCalGas is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), an energy services holding company based in San Diego. For more information visit socalgas.com/newsroom or connect with SoCalGas on Twitter (@SoCalGas), Instagram (@SoCalGas) and Facebook. 

 

About Southern California Gas Co.: Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 145 years. It is the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, providing service to 21.6 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. SoCalGas is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego.

SOURCE Southern California Gas Company

Fiorella Canedo, Office of Media & Public Information, Desk (213) 244-4162, Mobile (213) 276-9582, fcanedo@semprautilities.com

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Southern California Gas Company , Sempra Energy