TransCanada Pipelines Mainline Explodes in Manitoba
15 April, 2002

WINNIPEG, Manitoba. A section of Canada's main natural gas pipeline exploded in rural Manitoba late on Sunday, sending a huge fireball into the night sky and forcing the evacuation of nearly 100 people, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. and emergency officials said.

There were no injuries and by late Monday all but two of 34 families who live within a 5-mile radius of the blast site were allowed to return to their homes, said TransCanada, the country's biggest pipeline operator.

(The two families) are very much outside of our usual safety zone but we just want to make sure that they're safe, so they'll be heading home, we believe, tomorrow," spokesman Kurt Kadatz said.

The explosion, near the western Manitoba town of Brookdale, forced TransCanada to shut down three of six adjacent pipeline sections on its mainline, which transports the majority of gas produced in Alberta to customers in eastern Canada and the U.S. Northeast.

That prompted a jump in Canadian wholesale gas prices on Monday.

"Our goal is to get in there tomorrow and have a really good look at things," Kadatz said. "We've been hampered -- it's a wet day and it's pretty boggy there."

The cause of the explosion, which local media said left a 330-foot long crater, was not yet known. About 100 firefighters tackled a blaze that ignited in nearby brush after the blast just before midnight.

Cuts Gas Flows East

TransCanada said the shutdown of the ruptured pipeline and two others beside it cut about 450 million cubic feet a day of "interruptable" gas transport, representing roughly 8 percent of the total amount of gas that was flowing through the system from fields in Alberta.

Interruptable gas refers to gas shipped at a discount on condition delivery can be briefly cut in an emergency.

Kadatz said the company would determine on Tuesday how long the cut would remain in place.

Spot gas at Niagara, Ontario, a key export point to the United States served by the mainline, was said to be trading at an average of $3.45-$3.50 per million British thermal units for delivery Tuesday, up about 9 percent from Friday.

Gas traders, however, did not expect the explosion to create major, long-lasting problems for wholesale gas trade.

"There are six lines that go across that neck of the woods so they have plenty of capacity -- it's just a matter of rerouting gas and bringing up the compression to move more molecules," one trader said.

The pipeline system ships a total of 5 billion to 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.

Copyright Reuters
Original Story

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