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Gas flow close to normal

The long process of restoring natural gas service to industrial customers in British Columbia is underway after an explosion earlier this week near Prince George that shut down two pipelines.

A statement posted on the website of FortisBC, the utility that distributes gas to about one million B.C. homes and businesses, says work to bring industrial customers back online began Thursday night and will continue, on a gradual basis, through the weekend.

Specific businesses or locations aren't mentioned but Fortis says they include large, multi-family highrises.

The utility says it's getting about 40 per cent of its usual natural gas capacity from Enbridge after the Calgary-based company was forced to shut off its 91-centimetre pipeline following Tuesday's fiery rupture and blast.

A 76-centimetre pipeline near the damaged line was also shut down as a precaution but was restarted late Wednesday to give Fortis some supply, although all customers are still being urged to avoid non-essential use of natural gas.

The two pipelines affected by the explosion carry 85 per cent of the fuel FortisBC depends upon.

Several major industries and institutions responded by switching energy sources, reducing operations or shutting down temporarily.

Tolko Industries Ltd. closed its Kamloops-area plywood plant and reduced operations at sawmills near Quesnel and Williams Lake.

The B.C. Institute of Technology reduced heat to a portion of the classrooms on its Burnaby campus while the University of B.C. advised researchers and other non-essential users to immediately stop using natural gas.

The university said Thursday that its buildings are no longer affected by reduced gas supplies.

The Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the cause of the explosion, supported by teams of investigators from Enbridge and the National Energy Board.

The RCMP has said there is no indication the pipeline rupture and ensuing fireball involved criminal activity.



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