Enbridge pipeline explosion forces evacuations near Prince George

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Up to 700,000 natural gas customers in northern B.C., the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island could be directly affected by a potential natural gas shortage, a spokesman for Fortis BC said in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Fortis now has reserves in the pipeline south of Prince George, in its liquefied natural gas storage tanks in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, and there is some gas flowing from Alberta through a pipeline in southern B.C., he said.

'Approximately 100 members of the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation were evacuated as a precaution following the incident, ' the statement read.

Two Enbridge pipelines are being shut off: the ruptured pipe and another one that's to be assessed for damage.

An explosion and fire in a pipeline that provides natural gas to about 1.5 million customers in British Columbia, Washington state and OR has prompted a plea from energy companies to conserve fuel as Indigenous leaders called for assurances of safety.

An evacuation order had been downgraded Wednesday to the handful of homes near the explosion site. "They're going to monitor and oversee the company's response to the incident, and they're going to determine the impact and extent of the fire and release", Neufeld said.

"We sort of trained for it. because of the wildfires", Frederick said of the speedy evacuation.

The Enbridge natural gas pipeline that exploded Tuesday evening is a feeder for the province-wide gas distribution system and, because of this, FortisBC says it anticipates decreased energy flow and potential loss of service.

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The Enbridge website describes its almost 2,900 kilometre natural gas pipeline as capable of "transporting approximately 55 per cent of the gas produced in the province", and "the backbone of B.C.'s natural gas industry since 1957".

"I know the priority is to keep the residents in B.C. being able to use natural gas - it's the industrial users that take the hit when this kind of thing happens and that's completely understandable", said Sampson.

"Turn your thermostats down as low as possible, obviously that depends on the region you're in what you can do, minimize the use of hot water if you've got a gas water heater, turn off your fireplace".

A memo circulated from UVic's facilities management division noted the university has already switched its central heating system to diesel from natural gas, and has suggested staff and students bring warmer clothes to work and class. "So we are asking everybody to chip in", said Stout.

Enbridge spokesperson Michael Barnes says a full investigation into what caused the rupture is underway and the company is working with nearby communities to maintain public safety. The gas has been shut off.

The company will update its customers as soon as it is in a position to offer something new, said Stout.

He said Enbridge recognizes the impact the explosion could have on customers, but the company can't speculate when the gas will start flowing again.

"Given UBC's geographic location at the end of the line, if Fortis BC runs out of gas, buildings that use natural gas for heating, hot water and cooking will be impacted, beginning as early as this evening, or possibly the morning of October 11", the release reads in part.

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