Thousands of New Brunswick natural gas customers got an unwelcome shock this month when they opened their bills and found a jump of at least 30 per cent.
Natural gas prices have been climbing in New Brunswick since August due to shortages caused by production problems in Nova Scotia but few customers were prepared for what happened in February.
Steve Schurman, a Moncton resident, is among the natural gas consumers who have been hit with unprecedented late season price spikes for their natural gas.
Schurman switched his Moncton home to natural gas more than a year ago and was shocked when the prices jumped 21 per cent in December and then another 30 per cent in February.
"I honestly was in a state of shock. I honestly thought there was a problem," he said.
"I thought, ‘Where's the mistake? There's got to be a mistake if it went from $485 to $700. Where's the mistake?’"
There was no mistake as natural gas prices are rising for customers across the province.
This month Enbridge is charging its customers $7.78 per gigajoule (GJ) for natural gas, not including delivery charges. Enbridge's natural gas cost is now 80 per cent more than it was in August.
Irving Energy customers, meanwhile, paid $10.89 per GJ in February. Customers of Park Fuels, the province's third natural gas supplier, were charged $13.89 per GJ, which is 130 per cent more than last February.
The price hikes are related to declining production and other problems in Nova Scotia's Sable Island gas fields and the failure of the new Deep Panuke development to start up as expected.
Problems hit Halifax first where prices quadrupled in December. For instance, Dalhousie University said the institution's natural gas prices were $400,000 higher than expected.
The price spike ignited calls by Nova Scotia's Heritage Gas for the Maritimes to find new sources.
The Nova Scotia government commissioned a study to examine how to stabilize natural gas costs. The study is due by the end of March.
The only winner in the region has been Corridor Resources, which has been selling gas at high prices from its New Brunswick fields in Penobsquis lifting its stock price nearly 30 per cent in the process.