A TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded and caught fire in the Canadian province of Manitoba on Saturday, sending flames up to 300 meters into the sky and cutting off gas supplies for 4,000 residents during sub-zero temperatures.
On Monday, cold Arctic air forced temperatures below –32 Celsius in the communities affected by the explosion “but the extreme wind chill made it feel more like –45,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
At a press conference on Monday, TransCanada’s Karl Johannson said the company does not know what caused the explosion and it “will take several weeks” to determine what happened. Johannson said three lines were impacted; Line 1, built in 1960, will be out of service for some time. Line 2, built in 1969, received significant damage but crews were working through the challenging conditions to repair it and, according to Johannson, the company expects to have service restored by Tuesday afternoon.
Johannson noted that when service is restored, it doesn’t mean residents will have gas in their homes, as furnaces will need to be re-lit. A representative from Manitoba Hydro told reporters the company will have crews on hand to work through the night, going door-to-door if necessary.
The impact of the explosion extended across the border, as well, with residents in the Midwest losing gas supplies during a period of bitter cold. The explosion disrupted service to Excel Energy, forcing the company to ask customers to limit their gas usage and turn down thermostats. “Over the weekend, North Dakotans throughout the eastern part of the state were asked — in the middle of a sustained, severe cold spell — to turn their thermostats down to 60 degrees or lower,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
Limited supplies of compressed natural gas are being trucked in to high priority sites, such as hospitals, while work continues to repair the damaged lines.
“Province officials warned residents living without a furnace to leave their homes if they cannot properly heat it,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported. “Without heat, water pipes will freeze and the risk of hypothermia and frost bite increases.”
Calling the wind, freezing cold, and pipeline explosion a “perfect storm,” Niverville resident Dave Carr told CBC News “he contemplated sleeping in his truck with heated seats if his home got too cold.”
“Even with this incident, when you look at our record, it is world class,” TransCanada’s Johannson said at Monday’s press conference. “I don’t think residents around the pipeline should be concerned.”