Natural gas shortages may occur

The Associated Press
Saturday February 10, 2001

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers in Northern and Central California could face natural gas shortages by next month – or as soon as next week if a cold front hits – the power company warned. 

The problem intensified when companies that supply about 10 percent of PG&E’s gas terminated deliveries after Tuesday expiration of a U.S. Energy Department order that required suppliers to continue providing gas to PG&E. 

The utility’s chief executive, Gordon R. Smith, sent a letter to Gov. Gray Davis late Wednesday asking him to support PG&E’s request to state regulators for an emergency declaration that would require Southern California Gas Co. to buy extra gas and sell it to the financially ailing utility. 

Smith also asked the governor to use the state’s credit to help buy gas for PG&E’s residential users and other core customers. 

Davis is reviewing the request, a spokesman said Thursday.  

The California Public Utilities Commission declined to take up PG&E’s request at its Thursday meeting. 

Without enough supplies, many of PG&E’s 3.9 million gas customers and entire cities, from the Bay Area and Sacramento to Fresno, face potential shortages of gas for furnaces, stoves and clothes dryers. 



Because electricity-generating plants that burn gas, along with hospitals and industrial users, are among the “noncore” customers whose supplies would be reduced or curtailed first, any gas crisis could affect electricity supplies. 

PG&E projects that its gas storage inventory will be drawn down to minimum levels by mid-March. Even before then, executives said, diversions from noncore customers could occur, especially if cold weather increases demand for heat. 

Projected temperatures of 39 degrees to 40 degrees would place a core load on PG&E’s system of 2.1 billion cubic feet. The utility has about 1 billion cubic feet on contract and can draw 950 million additional cubic feet from supplies.