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Update: Xcel Lifts Conservation Appeal For Minnesota

Wisconsin customers remained under the utility company's request to keep thermostats set to 60°F.

Manitoba natural gas line rupture fireball. (Screenshot: YouTube/EpicViralTv)
Manitoba natural gas line rupture fireball. (Screenshot: YouTube/EpicViralTv)

Update:

Xcel Energy advised its residential natural-gas customers Monday they can turn their thermostats back to 68°F, after a pipeline explosion in Canada that led that utility to ask for conservation measures. 

"Xcel Energy is lifting its conservation appeal in a controlled fashion," a press release from the energy company stated. "Customers in North Dakota and Minnesota immediately may begin dialing their thermostats back up and using natural gas appliances.

Xcel Energy said it anticipates one of three natural gas pipelines knocked out by an explosion in Canada will be back at full capacity by later today.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, Wisconsin customers remained under the requested conservation measures, which also included avoiding use of gas appliances.

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Original:

A natural gas pipeline explosion in Canada could mean trouble getting an adequate supply for natural gas customers in Minnesota.

The explosion occurred early Jan. 25, south of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and ruptured a TransCanada pipeline. Two additional pipelines may have also been damaged. 

Those pipelines provide the main supply of natural gas to more than 100,000 Xcel Energy customers in northwestern Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and western Wisconsin, according to Xcel Energy.

The areas of Minnesota at greatest risk of having supplies affected are East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Brainerd. 

"There is a very remote possibility that supplies for Xcel Energy’s customers in the east Twin Cities metro area, including St. Paul, and other parts of Minnesota also could be affected," Kent Larson, Xcel Energy senior vice president for operations said in the statement from the utility.

Area natural gas customers should turn thermostats down as low as they safely can, according to Xcel Energy. Among other steps the utility company advised: avoid using gas appliances, use electric space heaters and check on elderly or sick family members and neighbors.  

Xcel Energy has already asked nearly 600 business customers in Minnesota and North Dakota, as well as 250 in Wisconsin and Michigan, who are part of its “Interruptible Gas Rates” program to lower their natural gas usage starting at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The pipeline disruption comes as the National Weather Service said wind chills from 35 below to 45 below were expected from late Sunday afternoon through Tuesday.

Xcel Energy is getting natural gas from the Twin Cities area and Michigan to serve the areas in northwestern Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Xcel Energy and first responders throughout the state are collaborating efforts in case of possible interruptions of natural gas service, according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Here are the statements issued overnight by Xcel Energy, in reverse chronological order: 

11 a.m. Monday:

Progress continued today on restoring normal natural gas transmission service to parts of Xcel Energy’s service territory in the Upper Midwest, and the company has lifted conservation appeals for some customers. Natural gas is flowing to the region after operations resumed Sunday on one of two pipelines that was shut down for inspection Saturday after a third TransCanada line was ruptured in a blast just south of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

In order to safely return the system to full capacity, Xcel Energy is lifting its conservation appeal in a controlled fashion. Customers in North Dakota and Minnesota immediately may begin dialing their thermostats back up and using natural gas appliances. Conservation appeal for customers in western Wisconsin is expect at about noon today.

Xcel Energy is notifying about 100,000 customers in the areas that were most at risk – eastern North Dakota, northwestern and central Minnesota and western Wisconsin – that conservation appeals have been or soon will be lifted.

While the appeal to residential and business customers to conserve is being lifted, the company’s Interruptible Gas Rates programs remain in effect for most participants. Nearly 600 business customers in Minnesota and North Dakota and 250 in Wisconsin and Michigan who participate in the program were asked to reduce natural gas usage beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday. Customers in these programs have agreed to cut back on usage at the company’s request in exchange for reduced rates year-round. 

5 p.m. Sunday:

One of three natural gas pipelines that have been out of service since an explosion in Manitoba early Saturday was being returned to service and is expected to reach full capacity by Monday afternoon.

While this is good news, we still need customers to conserve natural gas. The system won’t be back to normal until the natural gas is delivered to our service territory, and demand remains high due to extremely cold temperatures.

A big thanks to customers who have turned thermostats down to 60 and avoided using natural gas appliances since last night. We know your houses are uncomfortably cold, but we want you and your neighbors to know that your efforts have helped us maintain service to more than 100,000 customers. We ask you not to let up now.

We are monitoring the situation carefully, working closely with our pipeline service providers and will let you know when the coast is clear and it’s safe to dial your thermostats up.

11 a.m. Sunday:

Xcel Energy officials today continued monitoring natural gas supplies following an early Saturday morning explosion that ruptured a TransCanada pipeline in Manitoba and potentially damaged two other pipelines, which were taken out of service to be examined.

The three lines provide the main supply of natural gas to more than 100,000 Xcel Energy customers in eastern North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Xcel Energy on Saturday asked residential and business customers in those areas to conserve natural gas by turning their thermostats down to 60 and avoiding using natural gas appliances and renewed that request today.

TransCanada Pipeline is currently assessing the system to determine which lines can be returned to service safely, Larson said.

Xcel Energy currently is receiving natural gas supply to serve customers in Fargo and Grand Forks in North Dakota; East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Brainerd in Minnesota; and communities in west-central Wisconsin, including the Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie areas, from alternate routes from Michigan and from the Twin Cities area.

The extreme cold weather is putting capacity pressure on those systems, too, so Xcel Energy is asking all customers – even those outside the communities whose supplies are most at risk – to conserve natural gas.

We appreciate the support our customers are providing and recognize the discomfort it may be causing. We continue to urge those customers who can turn down their thermostats to continue to do so. We understand the elderly and others with special health concerns may not be able to accommodate the request. Supplemental heat such as electric space heaters can be beneficial.

Xcel Energy is contacting local officials to ensure they are prepared should conditions change.

5 a.m. Sunday: 

As of now we have no new information regarding the natural gas pipeline rupture that took place in Canada early Saturday morning. The rupture is affecting a line that supplies natural gas to some customers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. As a precaution, we are asking our natural gas customers in East Grand Forks, Moorhead & Brainerd, MN; Fargo & Grand Forks, ND; and Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, and St. Croix County, WI to conserve their natural gas usage.

To do so turn your thermostat down to 60 and avoid using natural gas appliances, but only do so if it will not pose a danger to your health or safety. Consider using electric space heaters. Use caution to avoid overloading circuits. We expect to know more by mid-day and will update you frequently as more information becomes available. As always, your safety is our number one concern. If you smell natural gas or think a natural gas leak may be possible, first vacate the premise immediately and then call 1-800-895-2999.

9:30 p.m. Saturday: 

In the wake of a pipeline rupture in Canada early Saturday morning, Xcel Energy asked natural gas customers in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota to conserve.

“Our natural gas supplies currently are adequate, but the situation in the wake of the rupture in a pipeline just south of Winnipeg is still being evaluated,” said Kent Larson, Xcel Energy’s senior vice president for operations.

Supplies most at risk are those to Fargo and Grand Forks in North Dakota; East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Brainerd in Minnesota; and the Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie areas in west-central Wisconsin.

Xcel Energy is asking residential customers in those areas who use natural gas to heat their homes to turn their thermostats down to 60 and avoid using natural gas appliances. Businesses that use natural gas also are asked to conserve.

Xcel Energy is contacting local officials to ensure they are prepared should conditions change.

“Customers should consider using electric space heaters if possible; however, caution should be taken to avoid overloading circuits,” Larson said.   “Also, please check on elderly or sick relatives or neighbors to ensure they are safe.”

There is a very remote possibility that supplies for Xcel Energy’s customers in the east Twin Cities metro area, including St. Paul, and other parts of Minnesota also could be affected, Larson said, although southern Minnesota also gets natural gas supplies from pipelines to the south.

“As a precaution and to maintain system stability, we are asking all natural gas customers to turn their thermostats down as far as possible -- unless doing so would pose a danger to their health or safety -- and to avoid running natural gas appliances. We expect to know more by mid-day Sunday.”

Additionally, Xcel Energy tonight implemented its Interruptible Gas Rates programs for business customers in all three states, as it has several times already this winter during extreme cold spells. Nearly 600 business customers in Minnesota and North Dakota and 250 in Wisconsin and Michigan who participate in the program were asked to reduce natural gas usage beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday. Customers in these programs have agreed to cut back on usage at the company’s request in exchange for reduced rates year-round.

Updates will be posted on Xcel Energy’s website and on Facebookand Twitter.

Read more about Winter Safety Tips.

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