Pipeline blast forces FortisBC to open market to boost natural gas supply

FortisBC is looking at several options to boost its stock of natural gas in an effort to get its customers through the winter after a pipeline blast squeezed off supply.

Company preparing for a potential acute shortage, spokesperson says

An employee of Enbridge monitors pipeline equipment near Prince George, B.C., following an explosion and fire caused by a rupture on Oct. 9. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

FortisBC is looking at several options to boost its stock of natural gas in an effort to get its customers through the winter after a pipeline blast squeezed off supply.

Sean Beardow, manager of corporate communications with Fortis, says the flow through the Enbridge pipeline that exploded near Prince George, B.C., last month has reached about 55 per cent, far below what will be needed this winter.

A large fireball was seen rising into the sky from Shelley, B.C., a small community about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George, after the explosion. (Greg Noel/Twitter)

He says the company is getting more fuel from an Alberta pipeline and has received permission from the B.C. Utilities Commission to purchase natural gas on the open market.

Enbridge has said it wants to get its pipeline capacity up to 80 per cent after the explosion — the cause of which has yet to be determined — but Beardow says even that won't be enough for the winter, especially if it's cold.

Customers urged to conserve

Beardow is urging customers to help save, saying even small things can make a difference collectively.

"Eighty per cent can sound like it's really good but the fact is that during the winter months, we use 100 per cent of what we get from the Enbridge transmission system,'' he says.

He says they're preparing for a potential acute shortage and are asking customers to step up their conservation measures.

"There's not a single tipping point because really we're looking at a number of variables that could affect gas supplies,'' he said, adding weather and customer demand will be key factors.