California ISO reports progress on gas-electric coordination

The California ISO has made progress on gas-electric coordination and doesn’t see any likely issues in that area in the winter of 2013-2014 and beyond.

That was the contention of Brad Bouillon, Director of Day-Ahead Operations and Real-Time Operations Support for the CAISO, in remarks filed on Oct. 17 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The remarks came as part of FERC’s efforts over the past couple of years to make sure a grid that is increasingly reliant on sometimes volatile natural gas supplies stays reliable, particularly during peak electricity (and sometimes coinciding gas) demand periods.

Approximately 60% of the installed capacity in the California ISO’s balancing authority area uses natural gas as fuel, Bouillon noted. The ISO also imports power, a portion of which is also sourced from natural gas-fired units.

Natural gas-fired facilities generally increase production during the higher load months of the year, and the higher load hours of the day, he noted. These resources often set the market clearing price for energy in the ISO system.

“The ISO actively coordinates with natural gas pipelines,” Bouillon wrote. “This program has resulted in enhanced sharing of operational information in a manner that has promoted safety and reliability for both the electric and natural gas systems.”

The California ISO actively coordinated with natural gas pipelines during the summer of 2013 and is working with the pipelines to ensure reliable operation of both the electric and natural gas systems during the winter of 2013-2014.

ISO, pipelines are syncing up maintenance work

As a result of additional discussions this summer, gas pipeline operators are now utilizing the ISO’s notifications that restrict maintenance on the electric system. Gas pipeline operators have informed the ISO that, based on the location of the ISO’s restricted maintenance notice, they are voluntarily restricting their work in that specific area. They will respond to the ISO’s restricted maintenance notices by ceasing non-critical work and, if the work is critical, contact the ISO if they have specific questions regarding the precise location or timing of the ISO’s concerns.

The ISO also now receives electronic copies of operational flow orders from Pacific Gas and Electric, Kern River and Sempra Gas, thereby allowing it to assess grid conditions during the time of a possible gas event, and take measures to ensure it can reliably operate the grid in case there is a disruption of supply to gas-fired generation in a particular area.

Outage coordination considered a key issue

Outage coordination is the topic that appears to be of greatest concern to gas pipeline operators. This past summer, the ISO successfully coordinated a number of multi-day maintenance outages to occur this fall that involve the need to conduct testing and perform maintenance on both the electric and gas infrastructure. Many of these outages are starting to occur in the month of October.

This coordination is especially important in transmission constrained areas where there is a need to operate local generation, Bouillon said. The ISO expects this work will continue this coming winter because it uses shoulder months to schedule inspection and maintenance of transmission and generator facilities. Gas pipelines will do the same to inspect and maintain their own facilities.

On a localized level, the ISO expects that both electric and gas loads will peak in Humboldt County during this winter. Humboldt is a transmission constrained area, so ongoing coordination will be necessary to ensure there is enough fuel to operate gas-fired generation to support electric loads in that area. In addition, the ISO anticipates additional pipeline inspections in San Diego this fall.

The absence of the shut and about to be permanently retired units 2 and 3 at the San Onfore nuclear station (a total of about 2,150 MW of net capacity) has increased and will likely continue to increase the use of gas-fueled generation in Southern California. This situation underscores the need for the high level of coordination for the southern California area, especially in San Diego, Bouillon said. The ISO may need to limit transmission outages to allow for maximum import capabilities and internal San Diego area generation transmission during these times.

Finally, there appears to be an adequate supply of natural gas to support natural gas generating facilities located in the ISO’s balancing authority area. The ISO did not experience any fuel related outages at gas-fired facilities this past summer. In general, gas storage facilities within California are full because of favorable prices in natural gas markets, Bouillon noted.

Looking beyond the coming winter, FERC should continue to provide electric and gas system operators as much flexibility as possible to tailor their coordination activities to the specific facts they may face, he said. In this manner, the commission can promote coordination activities between electric transmission providers and natural gas pipelines as well as allow regions to identify and solve regional issues.

The ISO generally supports the commission’s proposed regulation in Docket RM13-17 that would: authorize the voluntary exchange of non-public operational information between electric transmission operators and interstate natural gas pipelines; and adopt a no-conduit rule to prohibit recipients of the non-public operational information from subsequently disclosing, or being a conduit for subsequently disclosing, that information to any other entity.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.