In the wake of an Enbridge natural gas pipeline explosion near Prince George, the push is on to cut back on usage amid fears of a gas shortage.
On Wednesday evening, FortisBC said its customers had slashed gas usage by 20 per cent in response to appeals to conserve supplies.
“This means we have more time to keep gas flowing through the system for essential services,” said the company in a media release.
“However, we still need more customers to reduce their natural gas usage as much as possible for now, as we continue to work with Enbridge to confirm the impact on the system.”
Fortis supplies gas to about one-million customers, and said that up to 70 per cent of them could be at risk of losing gas due to the explosion.
WATCH: Enbridge natural gas pipeline explodes near Prince George
“We’re asking everyone to reduce their use of natural gas,” said Doug Stout, FortisBC vice-president of market development and external relations.
“So turn down your thermostat as low as possible, restrict the use of hot water from your natural gas tank and minimize the use of cooktops and turn off your fireplaces.”
A number of municipalities and organizations across the province say they are heeding Fortis’ call to reduce gas usage.
The BC Restaurant and Foods Services Association (BCRFA) has sent an advisory to its 3,000 members asking them to cut back where possible.
“Although we’re not the biggest users of natural gas, there are some strategies we can use to reduce our consumption,” said BCRFA president and CEO Ian Tostenson.
The City of Surrey is also taking steps at public facilities to conserve gas. The city is dropping temperatures in all civic buildings by 1.5 C, and lowering pool temperatures by the same amount.
UBC has warned that occupants and residents of a number of campus buildings could see heating, hot water and cooking gas affected by Oct. 11 “Given UBC’s geographic location at the end of the line,” and is asking everyone to cut back on gas usage.
The University of Victoria says it has switched its central heating system from natural gas to diesel, and that it will also be reducing temperatures. Douglas College said it turned off the heating system at all of its campuses on Wednesday evening, while BCIT says it has turned off the heat on the north side of campus.
Students are being asked to dress warm, with no timeline for a return to regular systems.
The incident has also prompted the shutdown of several pulp and sawmills across B.C., including facilities in Prince George, Quesnel and Mackenzie.
The call to conserve gas has also gone out south of the border, where B.C. feeds the northwest pipeline system.
Puget Sound Energy says it gets about two-thirds of its gas from B.C. and Alberta, and is asking its own customers to turn down the thermostat or cut back on electrical appliance usage.
WATCH: ‘It’s raining down ash’: Gas pipeline explodes north of Prince George, B.C.
However, there is one organization that won’t be paring back gas usage.
TransLink says it won’t be scaling back the use of buses that run on compressed natural gas, calling them part of an essential service.
The cause of the explosion, which happened around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, remains under investigation by the National Energy Board, Oil and Gas Commission and RCMP.
About 100 people were evacuated from the nearby Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, but they have now been cleared to return.
— With files from Catherine Urquhart