Gas forecast introduced by FortisBC with shortage looming

FortisBC says the new five-day gas supply forecast is a way to keep customers up to date on the shortage situation as the mercury continues to dip.

New 5-day gas supply forecast meant to keep customers up to date on shortage situation as temperatures drop

FortisBC has begun issuing twice weekly bulletins on the state of the natural gas supply in British Columbia. (Shutterstock)

With the coldest months of the year approaching, FortisBC has started publishing a five day gas forecast to help customers understand the gravity of the current gas shortage by ranking supply along a four stage continuum — normal, limited, critical and extreme.

The chart is based on current and upcoming weather conditions and has been registering at "limited" since it was first launched on Nov 29.

The FortisBC natural gas supply forecast for the week of Dec. 3. (FortisBC)

FortisBC spokeswoman Diana Sorace says the utility considers a number of factors before moving the forecast dial from "limited" to "critical" or from "critical" to "extreme." 

"There's not one tipping point because there's a number of variables that come into play like weather, temperature, the duration of a cold snap and the levels of storage based on anticipated demand."

Sorace says with the Enbrigde pipeline system still limited to 85 per cent capacity, the forecast tool is another way to get the message of conservation out to customers.

"If we can control the amount of natural gas used — from houses and apartments to industry and municipal buildings —we will have enough natural gas for all customers throughout the winter," she said.

An Enbridge natural gas pipeline exploded and caught fire northeast of Prince George on Oct. 9, 2018. (Jeff Miller/Twitter)

On Oct. 9, the primary Enbridge pipeline which feeds the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island exploded and caught fire northeast of Prince George.

Although repairs have been completed, gas transmission through it and a secondary Enbridge pipeline will be reduced through the winter while the integrity of the system is assessed. 

Enbridge pipelines supply 70 per cent of the natural gas used in B.C. The cause of the explosion is still being investigated, although RCMP have said it was not criminal in nature. ​

FortisBC plans to update the gas supply forecast every Monday and Thursday.

With files from Tina Lovgreen