Gas supply outlook more optimistic

Thanks to your conservation efforts, coupled with Enbridge’s pipeline returning to 85 per cent operating capacity, mild winter weather and our healthy storage levels, BC’s natural gas supply outlook is more optimistic. This means that for now, ongoing additional conservation actions are no longer necessary and you can resume your normal use of natural gas in your home or business.

How we’re working to ensure natural gas is available

FortisBC is continuing to do everything possible to ensure natural gas is available for our customers, including bringing gas from Alberta through our Southern Crossing pipeline and switching our compressed natural gas (CNG) powered vehicles over to gasoline for the winter. We also secured additional natural gas on the open marketplace.

FortisBC 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.

In December we began using a virtual pipeline of 16 to 20 trucks per day to transport CNG from the Southern Crossing pipeline in the South Okanagan to the Lower Mainland. This virtual pipeline will bolster the supply of available natural gas for customers in the Lower Mainland.

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What does this mean for all customers?

We are no longer asking customers to reduce their use of natural gas. However, until Enbridge’s pipeline returns to 100 per cent capacity, we encourage our customers to be conscious of their energy use. Find energy-saving tips, tools and rebates that can help you control costs.

Because the Enbridge pipeline rupture required us to secure additional natural gas supply to maintain service to customers, residential natural gas customers will see an interim increase to their bills.

This has raised some questions among our customers about the reasons behind the increase. Here are five factors to consider.

  1. FortisBC is a regulated utility
    FortisBC is regulated by the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC). The BCUC reviews all changes to FortisBC’s customer rates and determines whether changes are necessary. In this case, the BCUC has determined that the Storage and Transport rate on customers’ bills needs to increase on an interim basis to cover these additional costs.

    The BCUC issued an interim decision on rates and it is subject to their approval in the first quarter of 2019. Once approved, the decision may result in a bill adjustment for our customers. It is difficult to predict what the adjustment may be, but we always strive to deliver natural gas safely and reliably at the lowest reasonable cost to our customers.
  2. The majority of the increase is related to the Enbridge pipeline rupture
    The majority of the increase lies within the Storage and Transport charges, which reflect the prices we pay to other companies to store and transport gas through their pipelines and infrastructure. And one of the main pipelines that the majority of our gas comes from, owned and operated by Enbridge, was compromised.

    The Enbridge pipeline rupture required FortisBC to secure additional natural gas supply to maintain service to customers, increasing Storage and Transport charges.

    FortisBC, and the regional gas market as a whole, experienced increased volatility because of the Enbridge rupture. Market instability and uncertainty, coupled with supply and demand, are factors that contributed to an interim adjustment to rates.

    Learn more about your rates and what components make up your overall bill.
  3. FortisBC does not mark up costs or make any money on Storage and Transport charges
    We do not mark up Storage and Transport costs, or make any money on this specific charge. You pay what we pay. We operate in a commodity market, which is subject to various unpredictable events happening—weather, for example—so volatility exists. The charges are reviewed quarterly and set annually by the BCUC.
  4. We are a customer of Enbridge. Their ruptured pipeline that has caused natural gas supply concerns is not owned or operated by FortisBC.
    It is important to understand that we are a customer of Enbridge and the pipeline is not owned by FortisBC. While the rupture itself was not our responsibility, ensuring our customers have the natural gas they need is. As Enbridge was unable to supply sufficient volumes of natural gas through their system, we worked to obtain additional supply from other sources to ensure we met our customers’ needs.
  5. We appreciate our customers’ conservation efforts and patience
    While an increase is never welcome, we continue to focus our efforts to keep costs as low as possible for customers.

    One way to lower your bill is to reduce your consumption: the less natural gas you use, the less you pay. For instance, when the weather is milder, you use less natural gas and therefore you may see a decrease to your bill.

    We also appreciate the efforts customers have made to reduce their natural gas use. Customer conservation has played a vital role in maintaining the stability of the FortisBC natural gas system so far this winter and can also help reduce your bill.

Frequently asked questions

Enbridge expects its pipeline system to be operating at up to 85 per cent capacity for the duration of the winter. Not having access to 15 to 20 per cent of our needed capacity is why we need to continue to be conscious of our energy use.

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 may see temporary reductions in operating pressure as tests are conducted.

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.

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.

As our situation has improved, we have taken Hold to Authorize restrictions off industrial and commercial customers. As we move through the winter, we will gradually relax other restrictions on natural gas use provided supply remains stable.

We appreciate the efforts of our industrial and commercial customers to minimize their energy use when reduced consumption was required.

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.

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

View FortisBC’s archive of statements and information related to the Enbridge-owned natural gas pipeline rupture.

View Enbridge’s response to their ruptured transmission pipeline.

Industrial customers contact your key account manager.