Natural gas supply still at ‘critical level’ amid freezing cold in northern Alberta county

Alberta Emergency Alert logo. Credit: Alberta Emergency Alert

A state of emergency still isn’t being lifted, four days after it was declared amid natural gas outages in Alberta’s Mackenzie County, an area that is seeing freezing cold temperatures.

But things are improving, officials said.

“The natural gas supply to the region remains at a critical level and the problem will persist for several more days,” the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) said in an emergency alert issued on behalf of Mackenzie County on Tuesday.

“Natural gas trucks are being used to help restore pressure in the system. Outages are being reduced as the system is slowly being restarted.”

LISTEN:  Natural gas supply in Alberta’s Mackenzie County still at “critical level”

The state of emergency was declared on Friday after officials said a bitter cold snap caused natural gas supply issues in areas south of La Crete, Alta.

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As many as a dozen homes were without natural gas. As of Tuesday, Peters said he was not aware of any ongoing outages, however.

Environment Canada said the temperature in High Level, Alta. was -37.3 C (feeling like -48 with the wind chill) at about 6 p.m. that night.

High Level is located about 110 kilometres northwest of La Crete.

READ MORE: Cold weather causes gas outages in northern Alberta county, local state of emergency declared

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ Dec. 29, 2017 coverage of the cold snap Alberta found itself mired in.

“The warmer weather is anticipated to improve the supply of natural gas,” Byron Peters, deputy chief administrative officer for Mackenzie County, told Global News on Tuesday.

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“One of the big problems was that the gas-producing wells were freezing off, limiting supply to the area.

“The warmer weather, even though it’s still in the -20s, that will improve the ability to supply gas to our region and it will also result in somewhat reduced demand locally.”

On Tuesday, officials said a reception centre that had been set up in La Crete to help homeowners without gas heat had been closed.

Peters said many residents affected by the outages had been coping by using other sources of heat, or by staying with friends or family who had gas.

“The number of people that have wood stoves and alternate heat sources has been one of the critical elements to limiting the damage.

“Our emergency operations centre is kind of running at a bare-bones level right now but we’re still very closely monitoring the situation and… if there’s any setbacks… the recovery is tentative enough that should anything go sideways, we could definitely be right back at the point where there’s people without gas again.”

Peters said people are concerned about what would happen if Mackenzie County experiences another bout of bitterly cold temperatures like last week.

“We anticipate that we’d be in exactly the same situation again. There doesn’t appear to be any solution to the gas supply situation that would withstand another cold snap, even if we had a month to prepare for it. The solution looks to be longer term… and bigger projects.

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“Our region of northwest Alberta is only serviced by a single pipeline source currently,” he said. “So when one source is impacted, there is no alternate supply.

“Securing an alternate supply [of natural gas] is going to become a top priority here for our region.”

On Tuesday, the AEMA told residents and business owners in Mackenzie County that they should continue to limit their use of natural gas until levels return to normal.

For more information, area residents can visit the Mackenzie County Facebook page. If you are in need of immediate assistance, you are asked to call Doug Munn at 780-502-9543.

La Crete is located about 685 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Mackenzie County spans about 7,761,580 hectares and has a population of 11, 171 according to the 2016 census.

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