| WINNIPEG, Manitoba
WINNIPEG, Manitoba Jan 27 Thousands of Manitoba
residents were without natural gas to heat their homes and
businesses for a third frigid day on Monday, following a weekend
explosion along a TransCanada Corp pipeline in the
Western Canadian province.
The temperature on Monday morning in southern Manitoba
hovered around -29 Celsius (-20 Fahrenheit). The electricity
grid continues to operate.
The explosion and fire happened early Saturday near
Otterburne, Manitoba, about 50 km (31 miles) south of the
provincial capital, Winnipeg. No one was hurt in the blast,
which a witness said shot flames up to 300 meters into the sky.
The incident interrupted the supply of natural gas to 4,000
residents and other customers, although TransCanada arranged for
tanker trucks to deliver compressed natural gas to a hospital
and nursing homes.
TransCanada was working on restoring the gas supply to the
area in two stages, starting with residents and other customers
north of the damaged pipeline, said Scott Powell, spokesman for
Manitoba Hydro, a provincial government-owned energy company.
Powell said he could not estimate when gas might flow again,
since TransCanada is handling the work, but said Monday night
might be a possibility.
TransCanada did not respond to requests for comment on
Monday. On Sunday afternoon, the company said it had no estimate
of when gas supply will be restored.
Among those affected, privately owned Bothwell Cheese Inc
was forced to halt production on Monday because its equipment
relies on natural gas.
"Everyday we're (normally) producing over six figures worth
of cheese, so if we can't make that up and we end up losing
that, it will impact our revenue by that much," Bothwell Chief
Executive Ivan Balenovic said in an interview.
Balenovic said the employees he had spoken with were able to
find ways to keep their homes heated.
Saturday's explosion on one pipeline may also have damaged
two other lines, which were taken out of service, according to
Xcel Energy Inc, a Minneapolis-based energy company that
relies on natural gas from pipeline service provider Viking Gas
Transmission, which is supplied by TransCanada.
By Sunday afternoon, one of the pipelines was back in
service, and Xcel senior vice-president of operations Kent
Larson said the company expected to be operating normally by
Xcel lifted an earlier appeal to customers in North Dakota
and Minnesota to turn down their thermostats to conserve gas,
and said it would likely do the same for western Wisconsin
customers around noon Monday.
TransCanada Corp's mainline pipeline system supplies natural
gas from Western Canada to markets in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec
and the U.S. northern tier states. However shipments on the
system, which uses a number of separate lines, have waned as
shale gas from fields such as the Marcellus in the Eastern
United States supplant more distant supplies.
The incident comes as the safety record of pipeline
operators faces increased scrutiny.
Plans are under way for construction of several export
terminals on the Pacific Coast with the aim of making Canada,
the world's No. 3 producer of natural gas, an exporter of
liquefied natural gas to Asia.
Some of the new terminals would require new gas pipelines.
Shares of TransCanada rose slightly on Monday morning to
C$48.48 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Canada's National Energy Board and the Transportation Safety
Board are investigating the cause of the blast.