B.C. natural gas pipeline repaired after explosion

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All repairs are completed to the natural gas pipeline that ruptured near Prince George, B.C. on Oct. 9. and they have begun the process to return it to full service.

No one was injured in the explosion, which occurred at about 5:30 p.m. in a rural area approximately 13.5 km north of Prince George, B.C. The 36-inch 900 psi line, owned by Enbridge, was shut down following the blast. After repairs were finished, a complete integrity assessment was performed to begin safely returning the repaired part to service within 48 hours. Gradually, Enbridge will increase the flow of natural gas until it reaches 80 per cent regular operating pressure.

A parallel 30-inch line was also shut down to check for damage and has since been restarted. With the repaired segment of 36-inch pipeline returning to service, it is estimated that with the reduced pressure between 820 and 900 million cubic ft. per day of natural gas will be supplied to the lower mainland of B.C.

A comprehensive dig program will be run at select locations along the T-South system to ensure the integrity of the entire system is adequate. Until then, both the 36-inch and 30-inch lines will operate at reduced pressures.

The cause of the rupture has not been determined. Enbridge is working with regulatory agencies to investigate the incident.

Northern B.C., the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island were all facing gas shortages. As well, the price of gasoline spiked upward as refineries in Washington State, which are fueled by natural gas, had to shut down. The price of gasoline at the pump was expected to exceed $1.60 per litre by the weekend.

On Oct. 10 FortisBC, the gas utility, reported that energy saving measures by its customers had resulted in a 20 percent drop in demand for natural gas, which allowed it to direct available gas to essential services. It urged customers to continue to minimize natural gas use as much as possible. “This can be as simple as turning off your thermostat, not turning on your fireplace or limiting your shower time,” remarked ForitsBC’s Alex Munro.

FortisBC was looking to add to its supply by bringing in gas through the TransCanada line from Alberta and activating its Tilbury and Mt. Hayes liquefied natural gas plants. Officials have also talked to industrial customers about switching to alternative fuel sources.

FortisBC has approximately one million gas customers. It is estimated about 70 per cent of these customers could temporarily lose gas supply due to the incident.

Approximately 100 members of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation evacuated their homes as a precaution following the incident. Many were able to return Oct. 10-11, leaving a one-kilometre evacuation zone around the rupture site. Enbridge thanked the Lheidli T’enneh people for ”their patience and cooperative engagement” and promised to work closely with the First Nation as repairs are made.

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