There's a major shortage of natural gas in New Brunswick and without a new gas supply, manufacturing in the province is in trouble, according to the head of NB Power and a J.D. Irving Limited official.

The current supply is volatile, expensive and unsustainable, Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power said Friday in Moncton during the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council's annual conference, which outlines the major projects expected for the region.

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Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, says energy rates could jump 10 per cent a year without a new gas supply.

New Brunswick has some potential projects in the Energy East pipeline and shale gas development, the council said.

Thomas said the province needs a new supply of gas.

"We have Sable Island. It broke down a few times last year and the price just went wild and it's depleting and we're told by the experts that's it's going to go up, up and up," said Thomas.

Natural gas prices are already hurting the Crown corporation's bottom line and energy rates could go up by 10 per cent a year without a new supply of gas, he said.

Mark Mosher, a vice-president with Irving Forest Services Ltd., said the company's natural gas bill came in at almost $1 million a day a few times this winter.

"On an average day we would buy in our forestry operations about $75,000 a day of natural gas. Last winter, we saw peaks when that was up to almost $1 million," he said.

Mosher said some manufacturers that used natural gas in the province found it more profitable to just shut down and sell their quota of gas.

Both Mosher and Thomas say they don't care where the gas comes from, but say it's urgently needed.

As it stands, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council is predicting about $2 billion in projects for New Brunswick, based primarily on the potential west-east oil pipeline or shale gas development.

By comparison, nearly $10 billion is projected for for Newfoundland and Labrador, the council said.