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Drilling gear put to work for gas

Company’s effort to double production and storage of natural gas brings rigs to Valencia

Posted: June 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

The big drilling rigs seen along Newhall Ranch Road in Valencia recently are part of the Southern California Gas Co.’s efforts to more than double natural gas production and storage in the Santa Clarita Valley, officials confirmed Monday.

A gas company spokesman said the expansion is going on in the Honor Rancho site northeast of Newhall Ranch Road and Interstate 5.

“In April 2010, we were given permission to expand,” said Anne Silva, spokeswoman for SoCal Gas. “We can now store more natural gas at a cost which makes it cheaper for the customer.”

Over the next three years, the gas company wants to boost production and storage of natural gas from about 2,000 barrels daily on a good day to “4,500 barrels per day on a continuous basis for several years,” state documents said.

In 2009, the company applied to the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to expand its gas-making operation north of Newhall Ranch Road and west of Aurora Drive, near the Walmart at Newhall Ranch and Rye Canyon/Copperhill.

SoCal Gas has 41 wells on the sprawling Honor Rancho site, including 23 wells that once produced oil for Texaco and an additional 18 wells drilled with its rigs.

It also operates two existing brine-injection wells, which are wells of water saturated with sodium chloride, or salt.

Farming communities in Ohio have voiced concerns over salty water from brine-injection wells seeping into their farmland.

Honor Rancho
The Gas Company, through its San Diego-based parent company Sempra Energies, acquired the Honor Rancho facility from Texaco in 1975 and converted it into a natural gas storage facility

But the firm has since outgrown the facilities.

Over the past 30 years, it has boosted its “working inventory capacity” from 17.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas to 23 billion cubic feet at the site, and now it needs room to grow.

In its request to the state for permission to expand, the gas company specifically asked to build six more wells. and expand its storage of natural gas by 7 billion cubic feet by 2014.

In documents submitted to the state commission in support of its expansion application, SoCal Gas spells out three reasons why it should remain exempt from a California Environmental Quality Act environmental review.

They are: minor alterations to its facilities, minor alterations to the land and construction of structures considered minor.

The grassy hills of the property are about two miles away from the confluence of Castaic Creek and the Santa Clara River.

The 600-acre property — still dotted with picnic tables and sectioned-off with ranch-style wooden fencing — remains closed to the public with “No Trespassing” signs posted on its main access road every 40 or 50 yards.

Local questions
“I first noticed it one day when I was at Walmart, then I noticed another one there,” Scott Lookholder, who owns and operates the Santa Clarita Valley Rubber Stamp Manufacturing Co. on Avenue Crocker, said of the big drilling rigs.

“I thought, ‘What are they doing there and why does it keep moving?’” he said.

Standing outside his business, Lookholder can clearly see the drilling derricks to the north.

Although it’s not clear why the rigs he spotted closed up and moved on within days, the gas company told state officials in its application that it might pack up a drilling operation and drill somewhere else.

Specifically, it states: “In the event SoCal Gas discovers upon drilling that a chosen drill site is no longer viable (i.e. discovery of poor formation thickness, rock type or permeability), SoCal Gas may utilize an alternate drilling site.”

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