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Tumbler Ridge opposes PNG 'virtual pipeline' plan

Dawson Creek-backed proposal would use tankers to truck gas between cities, but Tumbler mayor balks

The Village of Tumbler Ridge has expressed opposition to a proposed plan by Pacific Northern Gas North East (PNG) to create a system to transport natural gas from Dawson Creek to Tumbler Ridge.

In a letter written by Tumbler Ridge Mayor Darwin Wren, he writes that there are concerns that Tumbler Ridge residents "will be obligated to share in compensating PNG for portions of the applicable costs" of the project.

In a letter from PNG that seeks approval for the project, the utility also asked for approval for a new bulk compressed natural gas service tariff to provide compressed natural gas service to customers, including the supply.

Tumbler Ridge residents would be on the hook for over $280,000 over a period of five years, according to PNG's letter. Some other Peace Region natural gas users could also be affected, at the rate of an extra $1.50 per gigajoule of gas.

The project is called a "virtual pipeline," but instead of a pipe buried in the ground, the system actually involves the hauling of compressed natural gas by trucks.

The gas would be transferred to two trailer trucks at a station on vacant land near 21st St. and the Imperial Road in Dawson Creek, then carried to locations within Tumbler Ridge.

All of this has yet to be built. The total cost of the facilities and the trailer trucks is estimated by PNG to be about $3.8 million.

PNG said it has currently received approval from BC Rail, the current owner of the property in Dawson Creek, to buy the land for about $300,000, should the application be approved.

"The property is located adjacent to a high-pressure natural gas line presently under construction by PNG, reducing the amount of compression required for the CNG Facility as well as reducing interconnection costs," the application writes.

"There is a possibility that after two years, the line will no longer be in use. Consequently, the installation of the CNG compression and dispensing infrastructure at this site makes use of and benefits from an asset that might otherwise become idle."

Residents of the area earlier complained about the amount of industrial traffic that has gone down 21st St. and other neighbourhood roads.

PNG said that these projects are needed "to address the ongoing security of supply and supply constraint concerns for Tumbler Ridge that presently make it impossible for PNG to meet service requests from current and potential customers."

They are hoping to provide this supply as early as this winter.

Extra work means extra costs, and a portion of these extra costs could come to other users in the Peace Region, especially around Dawson Creek.

Currently, large commercial users pay about $150 per month as a basic monthly charge to receive natural gas, and an extra delivery and commodity charge of about $5.60 for each extra gigajoule, according to PNG's website.

PNG is now seeking an extra $1.50 tariff for accounts that use more than 10,000 gigajoules, or about a 21 per cent increase in fees.

These tariffs would likely not target smaller residential users or smaller businesses. According to one Canadian natural gas company's website, an average home only consumes between 60 and 250 gigajoules of natural gas in a billing cycle.

However, both the project and the associated tariff require the approval of the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to move forward. BCUC is responsible for monitoring and approving these types of changes to the utility system throughout the province.

Two other interveners have also been listed, including FortisBC, another natural gas provider within the province. They have not expressed concerns in their letters about the project, but merely want to monitor the project for any possible implications to their own business.

The project could be approved by October, according to the BCUC website.

Calls to PNG's media line asking for comment about the project and Tumbler Ridge's objections were not returned as of press time.

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