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SoCalGas issues curtailment watch ahead of S. California heat wave

July 19 (Reuters) - Southern California Gas Co on Thursday issued a natural gas curtailment watch for Southern California, with power generators expected to burn more fuel than usual to keep air conditioners humming amid an impending heat wave.

SoCalGas, a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy , said the curtailment watch would remain in effect until further notice. The watch tells customers to be prepared to reduce gas use if needed.

Although high temperatures in Los Angeles were expected to remain near normal levels of around 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius) through Sunday, the mercury is expected to jump into the low 90s during much of next week, according to AccuWeather.

Gas supplies are expected to remain tight in Southern California this summer and winter due to reduced availability from SoCalGas' Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles, following a massive leak between October 2015-February 2016, and ongoing shutdowns of several pipelines.

California utility regulators in July approved an increase in Aliso Canyon gas storage volumes to 34 billion cubic feet (bcf) from 24.6 bcf. Before the 2015-2016 leak, Aliso Canyon was able to hold up to 86 bcf, making it the second biggest storage facility in the United States.

One billion cubic feet is enough to fuel about five million U.S. homes for a day.

The regulators said they increased the amount of gas that can be stored in Aliso Canyon to give SoCalGas time to inject fuel into the facility to reduce the potential for gas curtailments this winter.

Consumers in California use more gas in the winter for heating than in the summer when much of it is used to fuel power plants to produce electricity to run air conditioners.

With the increase in the amount of gas that can be stored in Aliso Canyon, the total amount of fuel that can be stockpiled in SoCalGas' four storage facilities increased to 83 bcf from 74 bcfd. Before the Aliso leak, the four facilities could hold 136 bcf.

The total amount of fuel in SoCalGas' inventories dipped to 64.1 bcf on Wednesday from a recent high of 64.7 bcf on Tuesday as the utility relied more on storage to meet demand. That was because less fuel was available from other regions via pipeline as heat waves in the U.S. Desert Southwest and Texas boosted power demand in those areas.

That is still more than the 52.6 bcf SoCalGas had stockpiled this time last year.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino)