NEB orders tighter safety measures at B.C. site of natural gas pipeline blast
By The Canadian Press
VICTORIA – The National Energy Board has issued new safety orders for a pipeline explosion site in north-central British Columbia to strictly monitor natural gas flows to protect people and the environment.
The federal regulator said in a statement Friday it ordered Calgary-based Enbridge to limit gas flows at 80 per cent pressure levels from the blast site, located about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George, along the entire length of the pipeline up to the B.C.-United States border.
The Oct. 9 explosion ruptured a 91-centimetre natural gas pipeline, but did not damage an adjacent 76-centimetre pipeline, which is now supplying natural gas on a reduced basis to about one million customers in B.C.
“Based on more detailed information received from the company, and further assessment as the investigation of the 36 inch pipeline rupture has progressed, the NEB determined that additional measures are required to ensure ongoing safety,” said the statement.
The amended NEB order requires the company not to operate any section of the 91-centimetre pipeline above 80 per cent pressure from just beyond the Prince George blast site to the Canada-U.S. border at Huntington-Sumans until Enbridge can demonstrate the pipeline is safe to operate.
The 2,900-kilometre pipeline extends from Fort Nelson in B.C.’s northeast to the U.S. border.
“The NEB continues to work closely with the company,” the NEB said. “As Enbridge confirms the work to be done and timing, we will ensure that the appropriate pipeline integrity, safety and environmental technical staff are on site.”
In a statement issued Friday night Enbridge said it was reviewing the NEB’s latest orders.
“We will not return to normal operating pressure until we are fully satisfied it is safe to do so and approval is granted by the National Energy Board,” the company said.
Enbridge also said it was “working hard” to repair its ruptured pipeline. In a statement issued Oct. 19 the company had said it expected those repairs would be completed by the middle of November.
“We are ensuring all construction operations are being done safely,” said Enbridge. “The line will be made operational once that work is complete, the line is fully tested, and approval is granted by the National Energy Board.
FortisBC, the province’s natural gas supplier, said its customers can expect reduced supplies as winter approaches.
The company said natural gas supplies could be limited to 50 to 80 per cent of normal levels during the coldest months of the year.
The RCMP has said there is no indication the pipeline rupture and ensuing fireball involved criminal activity.