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The Canadian winter is probably the worst time to lose access to a reliable source of heat and energy, but nearly 4,000 residents in the province of Manitoba are without natural gas after a pipeline operated by TransCanada Corp. , exploded on Saturday.
The explosion and subsequent fire occurred near to Otterburne, about 25 kilometers south of the provincial capital of Winnipeg, in the early hours of Saturday. Paul Rawluk, a local resident, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), that he "could see these massive 200- to 300-meter high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane."
The explosion caused no injuries, but people living in the vicinity of the fire were evacuated as a precaution. TransCanada had the blaze under control by the afternoon, however gas supply has not yet resumed as they wait to repair the damaged pipe.
John Funk, the Deputy Mayor of Niverville, one of the municipalities affect by the loss of natural gas supply, explained that the loss of service is expected to last for a "minimum of 24 hours to multiple days."And that, despite the temperature falling as low as -20°C each night, "Manitoba Hydro is asking residents to turn down thermostats and minimize use of electric heaters."
As no definitive timeline has been provided by TransCanada as to when the natural gas supply will resume, compressed natural gas is being imported by truck. The CBC has claimed that "the initial supply will be used to provide gas to critical services such as personal care homes and hospitals, as well as schools or churches being used as emergency warming centers."
This explosion comes at a bad time for TransCanada, who are trying to gather support for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, as it calls into question the company's safety record. Oil began flowing through the southern leg of the Keystone XL last week, but federal approval is still needed to complete the entire pipe.
Plans exist to construct several new export terminals along the Pacific Coast in order to send liquid natural gas to Asia, and this would require new pipelines to be built. The large number of derailments suffered by railcars carrying oil have started to create more support for the idea of pipelines, however this explosion may have just brought people back to the reality that neither transport option is infallible.
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