Turn up the heat and take long showers, but pipeline rupture still may raise gas prices

PSE asks customers to continue to conserve following Canadian pipeline rupture

Andy Wappler, vice president for Puget Sound Energy, explains why the utility is asking customers to conserve energy following a natural gas pipeline explosion in Canada on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
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Andy Wappler, vice president for Puget Sound Energy, explains why the utility is asking customers to conserve energy following a natural gas pipeline explosion in Canada on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

If you like your living room to feel like a beach in Hawaii, go ahead and turn the thermostat back up. Stand in the shower as long as you’d like, do the laundry and the dishes and everything else you’d normally do.

But — there’s always a “but” — be prepared for things to possibly sting a little more at the gas pump.

Western Washington residents received the all-clear from area utility companies Thursday, as press releases from Cascade Natural Gas and Puget Sound Energy thanked customers for their conservation efforts in the wake of Tuesday’s rupture of a Canadian pipeline that supplies natural gas to the region.

Meanwhile, a release Wednesday from GasBuddy.com said gas prices are expected to rise in response to the incident.

The Cascade press release said “residential and business customers can return to normal usage immediately,” and industrial customers could return to normal “over the course of today and Friday as the region’s natural gas supply continues to increase.”

“Cascade Natural Gas is appreciative of the cooperation of its customers, as the region worked through this supply disruption,” the release said.

PSE echoed those sentiments in its own release, saying that the utility company is reaching out to businesses that cut back on energy usage to let them know they can resume normal work. PSE also said it will continue to monitor the pipeline situation to make sure a supply problem does not reoccur.

“Thanks to a combination of efforts from our customers and partnering with other Northwest utilities, the natural gas system has stabilized and Puget Sound Energy is beginning to return to normal operations following the rupture of the Enbridge natural gas pipeline Tuesday evening in British Columbia,” the release said.

Canada Pipeline Fire-GTIEJIO2H.1.jpg
A massive pipeline explosion Tuesday near the community of Shelley, B.C, risks cutting off the flow of Canadian natural gas to Washington state, and companies are urging customers to conserve. Dhruv Desai Associated Press

The pipeline rupture and resulting explosion that forced calls for energy conservation occurred in the small rural town of Shelley, B.C., near Prince George and nearly 500 miles north of Bellingham, according to a CTV story. The story said approximately one million FortisBC customers in Canada could lose gas service following the rupture.

Utility companies and their customers are not the only ones feeling the effects from the rupture, though. GasBuddy Head of Peteroleum Analysis Patrick DeHaan predicts that gas prices will rise in the Pacific Northwest this week due to the explosion.

“The duration of the price impact will depend on the length of time that the pipeline is out of service, but it may be at least one to two weeks,” DeHaan said in the release. “Motorists are urged to only buy what fuel they need to limit the scope of the price increases.”

Oil refineries in Washington state rely on natural gas to power portions of the refining process, according to the release.

Phillips 66 Director of Public Affairs Josh Summers said Wednesday in an email The Bellingham Herald that the Ferndale refinery was “adjusting operations as needed to ensure the safety of our personnel and our community until the natural gas supply can be restored.”

Spokesperson Michael Abendhoff told The Herald Wednesday that the BP Cherry Point refinery also was assessing the situation, while Shell Puget Sound announced in a release Wednesday that it was shutting down its Anacortes refinery following the pipeline problem.

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