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BC May Feel Nat Gas Shortages Into The New Year After Pipeline Explosion

As the timeline for repair works on Enbridge’s ruptured gas pipeline remains uncertain, British Columbia may experience natural gas shortages for months and well into the winter, and such shortages could grow if colder weather takes hold before repairs are complete, B.C.’s natural gas utility FortisBC says.

A gas pipeline explosion that led to the evacuation of 100 people last week is forcing the residents of British Columbia and the state of Washington to cut their gas consumption as the region faces a shortage until the pipeline is repaired. The explosion damaged the two main pipelines, both operated by Enbridge, that bring natural gas into the FortisBC’s gas distribution system.

FortisBC announced that as many as 700,000 customers were facing a temporary lack of access to natural gas because of the explosion. That’s more than two-thirds of the company’s customer base. FortisBC ships as much as 85 percent of the natural gas it supplies to customers via the twin Enbridge line where the incident occurred.

While Enbridge’s 30-inch line was returned to service with reduced capacity a day after the incident, the 36-inch pipeline that was ruptured will need weeks and probably months to repair. FortisBC is asking its customers “to conserve natural gas wherever possible and to avoid non-essential uses of natural gas.”

“Typically, if it starts to get colder and people need to keep some heat on, then we'll go back to curtailing or reducing volumes to industrial customers on the system, which is what we do first,” FortisBC vice-president Doug Stout told CBC News on Monday.

Some industries in B.C. could be affected through Christmas and even New Year’s, Stout said, noting that it would depend on how cold it is while repairs are being made.

Related: U.S. Shale’s Glory Days Are Numbered

Enbridge said on Sunday that construction of a temporary access road to the site had started, but that is has “no timelines on when that repair work will be completed.”

Michele Harradence, senior vice-president of Enbridge’s gas transmission operations, told CBC that the company hopes to measure repair works “in weeks rather than months, but we really won’t know for a few more days.”

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Even if repairs take weeks rather than months, “It could be many months before it returns to full capacity,” Harradence said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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