Navigate Up
Sign In

BC’s natural gas supply may be limited this winter

BC may continue to experience a limited supply of natural gas this winter due to the rupture of the Enbridge-owned natural gas transmission pipeline earlier this fall.

Although Enbridge has repaired their pipeline, it is operating at a limited capacity, meaning BC’s natural gas system may be challenged during times of peak demand this winter. Enbridge received approval from the National Energy Board to increase their pipeline operating pressure to 80 per cent to 85 per cent while assessments are completed.

Because we require 100 per cent capacity in order to fully meet our customers’ demand for natural gas during the winter months, this means that our gas supply may still be vulnerable during extended periods of colder than average weather. As temperatures across BC drop, it is important to continue to conserve wherever possible, as any gas saved can help offset what will be needed during our coldest days this winter.

Five-day natural gas supply forecast (December 13 - December 17)

The biggest factor in protecting our natural gas supply over the winter will be reducing demand as much as possible. Here’s a five-day forecast to guide your conservation efforts. 

Legend for the five-day natural gas supply forecast

This legend identifies what each possible supply forecast colour means. For example, if a day is green, this means that supply is limited and conservation is required.

  • Reduced consumption is not required
  • There is an adequate supply of natural gas in relation to demand
  • Natural gas is being moved into storage facilities to be used during periods of cold weather or emergency events

  • Reduced consumption is required
  • Natural gas supply is vulnerable to winter temperatures and sudden demand peaks
  • Natural gas is being pulled from storage facilities to offset the difference between demand and available supply

  • Reduced consumption is critical
  • Natural gas supply is less than demand
  • Natural gas stores may be low
  • Possible short-term loss of service to large-scale commercial and industrial customers

  • Outages may be required
  • Natural gas supply is less than demand
  • Natural gas stores are depleted
  • Loss of service to commercial, industrial and possibly residential customers

How we’re working to ensure natural gas is available

FortisBC is doing everything possible to ensure natural gas is available for our customers, including bringing gas from Alberta through our Southern Crossing pipeline, securing additional natural gas on the open marketplace, working with our industrial customers to help them decrease their natural gas use and switching our compressed natural gas-powered vehicles over to gasoline for the winter.

FortisBC also owns or contracts a number of natural gas storage facilities located throughout BC and the United States that can be accessed during times of high demand, but the amount of gas they can store is limited.

What does this mean for all customers?

Because BC’s natural gas supply may be limited over the coming months, we are asking all our customers, from homeowners and stratas, to businesses and municipal buildings, to continue to focus on conservation measures to help ensure a sufficient supply of natural gas is available for customers through this winter.

If customers can continue to reduce their use of natural gas where possible now, this will help to replenish storage options to help offset the difference in availability later when demand is high on the colder winter days.

The following video explains how FortisBC’s natural gas system works and why it’s important for everyone to reduce their use.    

 

How can I reduce my natural gas use?

We understand that reducing your gas use can be difficult during the winter months. Here are some simple ways you can reduce your consumption while conquering winter chills. 

​Turn down the th​ermostat

  • Where possible we’re asking customers to set your thermostat between 18 – 20 °C when home and awake and no more than 17 °C when out or asleep.

​Natural gas fireplace  

  • High-efficiency EnerChoice® natural gas fireplaces can still be used to efficiently heat the room you’re in. Save energy by turning down the thermostat in the rest of the house and not heating areas that no one is using. 

​Put on a​ sweater 

  • If you're cold, reach for a sweater, socks or blanket instead of turning up the heat.

Take shorter showers

  • Save hot water by shortening your showers by two minutes.   

 Dishwasher

  • Use the energy-saving mode when dishes are less dirty and only run your dishwasher when it's full.

Clothes washer/dryer

  • Wash full loads in cold water on energy-saving mode. When drying, use lower heat settings, such as permanent press.

Window coverings   

  • On sunny days, take advantage of Mother Nature by opening blinds or curtains to warm up.

Heat only the rooms you’re in

  • Close warm air supply registers in rooms you’re not using. Avoid heating non-insulated spaces such as a garage, crawl space, attic or storage shed. 

How your efforts to reduce natural gas use can add up

Every molecule of gas conserved can be used elsewhere on our system to keep homes warm and businesses working. Here are a few ways that small changes can add up.

Residential

  • If just 11 homes set their thermostat 3 °C lower for when they need heat, it could save enough natural gas to provide heat and hot water for one home for a year.1
  • If each member of a four-person household shortens their daily shower time by two minutes, almost five gigajoules of natural gas will be saved annually. If a community of 100,000 households does the same, it could save enough natural gas to provide space heating for almost 5,000 homes for a year.2

Business

  • If a 23,000 square foot office set its thermostat 3 °C lower during office hours, it could save enough natural gas to provide heat and hot water for one home for a year.3
  • If just one per cent of BC’s restaurants (about 140 restaurants) turned off one of their decorative natural gas fireplaces during the heating season, it could save enough natural gas to heat about 156 homes for a year.4
 

 Frequently asked questions

 
If Enbridge’s pipeline is repaired, why isn’t it business as usual?

Not having access to 15-20 per cent of our needed capacity is why we need to conserve where we can to reduce the typical demand experienced through the winter.

Enbridge expects its pipeline system to be operating up to 85 per cent capacity for the duration of the winter. While this is positive news, FortisBC requires 100 per cent capacity in order to meet the average demand of natural gas during the winter months. FortisBC is doing everything possible to ensure a sufficient supply of natural gas is available, but we still need all customers to reduce their use of natural gas where possible.

The reason the pipeline is operating at a reduced capacity is because all pipelines have a top capacity that they can operate at. Operators are regulated to stay within those capacities. In cases such as this, when a pipeline has been damaged, operating pressures are often limited for a period of time to ensure that all repairs were successful. As Enbridge continues its pipeline integrity inspections, we will see temporary reductions in operating pressure as tests are conducted. This mean, FortisBC may experience further reduced gas supply for short periods.

What caused the pipeline to rupture?

At this time, it is still unclear what caused Enbridge’s pipeline to rupture. The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating, with support from Enbridge and the National Energy Board. The RCMP has determined the rupture was not criminal in nature.

No FortisBC infrastructure was damaged and we are confident in the integrity of our system, which has an excellent safety record. We monitor our system 24-hours a day, 365 days a year and conduct regular inspections of our natural gas system to prevent any potential risk to our pipelines.

Is FortisBC continuing to export natural gas outside of BC?

​We have placed a hold on the delivery of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to our export customers. FortisBC had been supplying LNG for small-scale shipments to China since November 2017. Our two LNG facilities are now stabilizing our supply and storing gas for peak winter demand to serve our domestic customers.

Are large organizations being asked to reduce their natural gas consumption?

Yes. We are working directly with industrial customers to optimize their energy use – keeping them running while minimizing system impacts.

Temporarily curtailing natural gas to large industrial customers is one of the options we have available to us to ensure that we can continue delivering gas to our residential and commercial customers.

Will natural gas rates increase due to the pipeline rupture?

Yes, in the interim. Beginning January 1, 2019, residential natural gas customers will see an increase to their bills. The Enbridge pipeline rupture required us to secure additional natural gas supply to maintain service to customers, resulting in an increase in costs for the interim. Please refer to your bill or our service alert.

Thank you for your conservation efforts. Every bit saved reduces the need to seek additional supply elsewhere.

How do I know which of my appliances use natural gas?

​The best way to identify whether you have gas is by checking your house meter for a FortisBC tag. Receiving a bill from FortisBC with a “Natural Gas” label would also indicate that at least one of your appliances uses natural gas.

The simplest way to determine if your furnace or water heater is gas is to check the front of the heating unit, which would have a small window on the front where you will see a blue flame (the pilot light) glowing.

Stay informed about BC’s natural gas supply

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date information.

Read how British Columbians are reducing their use.

Customer contact centre: 1-888-224-2710.

Industrial customers contact your Key Account Manager.

Media contacts (24 hours): 1-855-FBC-NEWS or (1-855-322-6397)


1 Savings are approximate, assuming a thermostat setback of an additional three degrees for when heat is needed in a natural gas heated 2,300 - 2,600 square foot home located in a FortisBC service area. On average, a home this size consumes 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually.

2 Savings are approximate, assuming a 7.6 litre per minute showerhead in a four person home with a standard efficiency natural gas storage tank water heater. Assumes a home consumes 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually for space heating.

3 Assumes additional setback of three degrees for 10 hours each weekday, saving 90 gigajoules of natural gas over the heating season, enough to heat one average sized home for a year. 

4 A natural gas fireplace turned on 13 hours per day during the heating season would use 100 gigajoules of natural gas per year. Savings achieved when 140 restaurants turn off fireplaces saving approximately, 14,000 gigajoules of natural gas, enough to provide space heating for 156 average size homes in a FortisBC service area.