PG&E prepares for peninsula's winter gas demand

October 15, 2010 6:06:09 PM PDT
Fallout from the San Bruno natural gas explosion could cause a serious problem for PG&E customers this winter. PG&E may have to cut gas service to some big businesses, if the utility cannot meet the peninsula's demand when it gets cold.

Crews are still working along Skyline Boulevard in San Bruno and they're not going to leave any time soon. They may stay until 8 p.m. on Friday. At the San Andreas valve station along Skyline Boulevard crews are working on two transmission gas lines in preparation for this winter so they can increase the supply of gas to the peninsula.

Jack Murphy, 5, and his family live in Hillsborough near a gas transmission line that's connected to Line 132, the one that exploded in San Bruno. So it scared Jack's grandmother Dottie Lau when she smelled gas Friday morning.

"I thought it was from the car, but it's not from the car, so it's got to be in the air somewhere. Something's leaking," said Lau.

The odor came when PG&E crews opened the pipeline and flushed out the gas so they could work on increasing the supply when it gets cold this winter.

"When the demand for gas increases, we want to make sure we have the capacity to meet our customers' needs," said PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles.

But the utility may have to curtail gas this winter to some businesses called non-core customers because of the decreased pressure in the pipeline that exploded. Boyles says non-core customers are usually big businesses.

"In return for a slightly lower transmission rate for gas, they agree to curtail their use when we ask them to," said Boyles.

The California Public Utilities Commission ordered the utility to reduce gas pressure by 20 percent in the section of Line 132 that was not shut off, but that also resulted in reducing pressure on the pipeline that runs through Hillsborough and a third line that's also interconnected.

The lowered pressure could strain PG&E's capacity to deliver gas to peninsula customers during the peak winter months.

So, crews were working on increasing gas supply by re-routing the gas flow from the portion of Line 132 that was not shut off, to a parallel pipeline along Skyline Boulevard.

Gas pressure has been reduced in the two transmission lines that run along Skyline Boulevard.

On Thursday the CPUC formed a panel of experts to investigate the San Bruno explosion and they will be the ones to decide the protocol to determine if and when gas pressure can be increased if it is a cold winter and the demand for gas goes up.


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