The Southern California Gas Co. said Thursday that a huge natural gas storage field closed by a monthslong leak should reopen by late summer.
The utility laid out a framework for safety testing on wells in the Aliso Canyon storage field near Los Angeles. The underground reservoir hasn't received new supplies since the leak was discovered last October.
Over nearly four months, a well spewed massive amounts of gas into the air. Neighbors said they were sickened, and thousands left their homes in neighboring Porter Ranch.
On Tuesday, a report by state agencies said the field holds only a fifth of its capacity. The report said the shutdown could mean a risk of summer power outages by affecting natural gas-fired electricity plants. But heating supplies also could be problematic.
"Using most or all the gas remaining in Aliso Canyon during this summer would result in greater risk of shortages next winter if normal operations of the facility are not restored in time to store new gas there for winter use," the report said.
Before any new gas can be injected into the field, state regulators are requiring that all 114 wells pass a battery of safety tests or be sealed at least temporarily.
California's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has 21 engineers to evaluate the SoCalGas test results.
"We have said all along that we will not re-open Aliso Canyon until we are confident it is safe to operate," SoCalGas Chief Operating Officer Bret Lane said in a statement. "Following both the spirit and letter of new guidelines established by the state, we have started work that should allow us to partially restore operations at the field by the end of the summer."
But some residents were skeptical of the timeline.
"Those are the same agencies, together with SoCalGas, that brought us the failure in the first place," Matt Pakucko, president of the neighborhood group Save Porter Ranch, told the Los Angeles Daily News. "No one needs to go rushing around to get this place online."