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Gas service on way to high rises, but industrial users must conserve: FortisBC

Last Updated Oct 12, 2018 at 6:20 pm MST

A pipeline has ruptured and sparked a massive fire north of Prince George, B.C. is shown in this photo provided by Dhruv Desai. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dhruv Desai

VANCOUVER – Transportation Safety Board investigators plan to remove pipeline wreckage debris from an explosion site near Prince George, B.C., while the province’s major natural gas supplier asked industrial users Friday to continue to conserve natural gas.

The explosion Tuesday in the underground Enbridge pipeline temporarily shutdown two natural gas pipelines. One of the pipelines was cleared to start shipping gas late Wednesday but on a reduced basis, forcing residents and industrial customers of FortisBC to turn down the heat and cut back on production.

“On Thursday, October 11, some industrial customers began being brought back onto the system with a reduced amount of natural gas,” said Doug Stout, a spokesman for FortisBC in a statement. “This process will continue through the weekend and includes large, multi-family high-rises.”

About 85 per cent of the gas FortisBC feeds to its one million B.C. customers is carried by the twinned Enbridge pipeline that runs from northern B.C. to the United States border south of Vancouver, Stout said.

About 750,000 natural gas customers in the northwest U.S. were also impacted by the explosion.

The blast knocked out Enbridge’s 91-centimetre line, but the company’s 76-centimetre pipeline near the damage site is supplying a reduced amount of natural gas, Stout said.

“We appreciate the efforts of our customers to limit their use of natural gas at this time,” said Stout.

He said the gas flow is at about 40 per cent of our normal capacity while Enbridge makes repairs to its system.

The Transportation Safety Board said in a statement Friday its investigators are conducted a detailed site survey of the explosion area.

Investigators will also secure and remove the pipeline wreckage and examine the pipeline’s operating history and inspections, the statement said.

Enbridge records indicate the last inspection on the pipeline was conducted by the company last year, Iain Colquhoun, the National Energy Board’s chief engineer, said Thursday.

He said initial reviews of the inspection reports did not show “worrisome anomalies in the line.”

The safety board said it has appointed pipeline expert Jennifer Philopoulos to lead its explosion investigation.

Philopoulos has 15 years of experience in the oil and gas industry.

The RCMP said Thursday there is no indication the pipeline rupture and ensuing fireball involved criminal activity. There were no reports of injuries.

The supply disruption saw major industries and institutions switch energy sources, reduce operations or shut down temporarily.

Gasoline prices also started to increase as nearby oil refineries in the United States moved to conserve the natural gas it uses to fuel its operations.

Tolko Industries Ltd. closed its Heffley Creek plywood plant near Kamloops and reduced operations at sawmills in the Cariboo at Quesnel and Soda Creek.

The University of Victoria said it switched to diesel power, while Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops turned down thermostats and limited use of fans to conserve natural gas.

Surrey’s school district spokesman Doug Strachan said it requested a district-wide conservation effort.

“As one of the larger consumers of natural gas, Surrey schools is doing its part by asking all district sites to immediately turn down room thermostats and limit the use of hot water,” said Strachan in a statement. “Fortunately, there are several sunny days forecast, so this will help staff and students to remain comfortable.”

An one-kilometre security zone remains up around the explosion site.