More than a million Fortis BC customers are being told to turn off their thermostats to help conserve the supply of natural gas following a ruptured Enbridge pipeline Tuesday night.
National Energy Board inspectors are at the scene of where an Enbridge natural gas line ruptured about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George, which Fortis BC says feeds its system.
Doug Stout, Fortis BC vice-president of external relations, said Wednesday that 85 per cent of the gas his company feeds to homes and businesses is carried by the twinned pipeline that runs from northern B.C. to the United States border south of Vancouver.
One of the two lines ruptured and exploded but the second line is also shut while it’s being checked for damage, said Stout, prompting Fortis to warn of “decreased energy flow and potential loss of service.”
The utility is asking customers across the province to “avoid non-essential use of natural gas” as it expects a decrease in energy flow and a potential loss of service for up to 700,000 customers. FortisBC does have natural gas storage facilities in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.
“Turn down your thermostat if you are in a cold spot. Turn off your furnace if you can, if you are in Vancouver or a situation where you can do that. Minimize the use of hot water if you have a natural gas hot water tank … so we preserve the gas we have for as long as possible,” said Stout.
As many as 700,000 customers in northern B.C., the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island could be directly affected by a shortage, he said.
Stout urged another 300,000 customers in the Okanagan and southeastern B.C., to conserve even though their natural gas comes from Alberta.
“We are asking them to cut back, too, because we can flow some of that gas past them and down here to the Lower Mainland. So we are asking everybody to chip in,” said Stout.
We are anticipating decreased energy flow and potential loss of service to some gas customers. We request that all gas customers across BC turn off their thermostats as well as reduce use of all other natural gas appliances. We appreciate your assistance: https://t.co/K0UslaGx7Y
— FortisBC (@FortisBC) October 10, 2018
The gas line was ruptured around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday that caused an explosion and a sparked huge fireball in the small community of Shelley.
The incident forced the evacuation of several homes in the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, but most of the roughly 100 residents have been allowed to return home.
Police say the evacuation zone is reduced to homes within a one-kilometre radius of the explosion site.
Police say it is still unclear what caused the natural gas pipeline to rupture but there are no injuries and no reported damage other than to the line itself.
The ruptured line has had an impact south of the border, as Puget Sound Energy is advising its customers to limit natural gas use. The damaged Enbridge pipeline connects to the Northwest Pipeline system which feeds Puget Sound Energy in Washington State and Northwest Natural Gas in Portland.
Currently Fortis has reserves still in the pipeline south of Prince George, in its liquefied natural gas storage tanks in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, and there is some gas flowing from Alberta through a pipeline in southern B.C., Stout said.
Fortis expected to receive updates on the situation as Transportation Safety Board investigators and National Energy Board inspectors arrived to assess the damage and attempt to determine a cause.
The company will update its customers as soon as it is in a position to offer something new, said Stout.
The Enbridge website describes its nearly 2,900 kilometre natural gas pipeline as capable of “transporting approximately 55 per cent of the gas produced in the province,” and “the backbone of B.C.’s natural gas industry since 1957.”
Due to a pipeline rupture Tuesday in B.C., Canada, we’re asking you to help conserve natural gas and electricity tonight and Wednesday morning. Lowering your thermostat and limiting hot water use can help. Our local gas system is safe and was not damaged by the pipeline failure.
— Puget Sound Energy (@PSETalk) October 10, 2018
GasBuddy.com’s Dan McTeague said Wednesday the explosion has affected Washington state refineries as natural gas powers the facilities. Drivers across the Pacific Northwest should expect to see a hike in gas prices, McTeague said.
Gas prices at a few stations in the Capital Region have already jumped nearly 15 cents per litre to 153.9.
With files from The Canadian Press