The Gas Company
This gas company’s roots trace back to the 1800s when new settlers arrived in Los Angeles in search of a new frontier. In 1867, Los Angeles Gas Company, the forerunner of today’s Southern California Gas Company, installed 43 new gas lamps along Main Street, making the city safer at night. The gas lighting business was run by five entrepreneurs who manufactured the gas from asphalt, a tar-like substance, and later from oil.
The company was enjoying modest success until Thomas Edison introduced his electric light in 1879. With the future of the gas lamp business uncertain, the company began looking for other uses for gas, and Los Angeles soon had its first gas stove and heater. Meanwhile, Pacific Enterprises was looking to expand its gas business. Founded in San Francisco in 1886 as Pacific Lighting, the company bought several small gas manufacturing and distribution companies in the area, including the Los Angeles Gas Company in 1890. These companies ultimately became Southern California Gas Company.
By the early 20th century, natural gas—a colorless, odorless gas found in association with oil underground—was starting to gain attention. The breakthrough came with the discovery of the Buena Vista Oil Field near Taft, California in 1909, which included a huge reservoir of natural gas. Since natural gas had twice the heating value of manufactured gas, the company took the bold step to convert its system to natural gas and build pipelines throughout the state. Natural gas was soon found throughout the country, and demand for the fuel was rapidly growing. To meet customer demand, the company began storing gas in large holding tanks. In 1941, the company introduced a new system to the Southwest United States: underground storage of natural gas. By 2016, the company had four separate underground storage facilities, all of them depleted oil and gas fields repurposed as gas storage. The four are, in order from largest to smallest, the Aliso Canyon field, north of Porter Ranch; Honor Rancho, near Newhall; the La Goleta Gas Field adjacent to Goleta; and the Playa del Rey storage facility, north of Playa del Rey, near the Los Angeles International Airport.
As Southern California’s population grew, so too, did the company, eventually becoming the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, serving 19.5 million people through 5.5 million gas meters in more than 530 communities. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Southern California Gas Company is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 company based in San Diego. Its service area encompasses 23,000 sq mi (60,000 km²) of diverse terrain throughout most of Central and Southern California, from just south of Sanger to the Mexican border.
In late 2012, the company began the Advanced Meter Installation Project that consists of upgrading over 6 million gas meters with the new Advanced Meter communication device. This device is attached to an analog gas meter that automatically and securely transfers gas usage information to the company’s customer service and billing centers. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a budget of $1.05 billion for this project, which is expected to be completed in 2017.