The cause of an Enbridge natural gas pipeline explosion in Shelley, B.C., about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George Tuesday night, remains under investigation.
Speaking on the Jon McComb Show on CKNW Tuesday morning, B.C. Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said the cause of the rupture remains a mystery.
“At this stage, there’s an investigation that is underway and as soon as we know, there will be, no doubt, lessons to be learned,” she said. “We’ll be implementing those lessons but at this stage, we do not know what caused the explosion.”
Prince George RCMP say the explosion happened at about 5:30 p.m. PT and forced the evacuation of about 100 members of the nearby Lheidli T’enneh First Nation from their homes.
On Wednesday morning, Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall confirmed the evacuation order has been lifted.
“[Those evacuated] were given the option late last night to go back to their homes but many chose to stay in hotel accommodations. As far as I know, they’re still there this morning but they do have the option to go home,” Hall said.
“It will depend on how they feel about going home. We leave that to them whenever we have an evacuation situation.”
Enbridge says it continues to maintain an evacuation zone of one kilometre from the incident site.
WATCH: Pipeline explosion near Prince George forces dozens to be evacuated from First Nations community
“We’re anxious to see what the outcome is and what the cause is but no question, it’s resurrected the debate about pipelines and how safe they are,” added Hall.
“There’s a lot of questions in the community and we’re primarily concerned, obviously, about the safety of our residents.”
“When you have this type of incident, people are reluctant to go back to their homes and I understand that.”
There are no injuries from the explosion and no damage reported other than to the pipeline itself.
The gas supply has been shut down.
Fortis urging customers in B.C. and Washington State to conserve gas
Now that the pipeline is shut down, Fortis is warning about a potential loss of gas supply for its customers.
Fortis says this pipeline provides the supply of natural gas which FortisBC then distributes to its customers in Prince George, Quesnel, William’s Lake, the lower Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver, and Washington State.
The company is asking customers to reduce their natural gas use, such as turning down the heat, skipping the shower or maybe holding off on doing laundry.
FortisBC says it has about one million gas customers, and it’s estimated 70 per cent of customers may lose gas supply because of the pipeline explosion in Prince George.
WATCH: Prince George resident describes pipeline explosion
In Washington state, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is also asking its customers to do the same.
“So we do have two-thirds of PSE natural gas supply coming from B.C. and Alberta,” said spokesperson Janet Kim. “But we are hoping with conservation efforts … to get through this.”
“Customers can set their thermostats at a lower setting, limit the use of hot water such as that hot shower or washing dishes or clothes and limits the use of natural gas and electric appliances until later tonight.”
WATCH: ‘It’s raining down ash’: Gas pipeline explodes north of Prince George, B.C.
Enbridge teams on the ground
In a statement, Enbridge says it is working in coordination with first responders, communities and with the federal, provincial and local governments, and regulators to ensure the safety of area residents near the impacted zone.
They confirm an adjacent natural gas pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge has also been depressurized.
“At this time we cannot speculate about how long it will take to resolve the situation,” the company said in a release. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to work safely and in a manner that minimizes the interruption of gas supply to communities.”
WATCH: Enbridge natural gas pipeline explodes near Prince George
–With files from Emily Lazatin, CKNW and the Canadian Press
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