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Xcel Energy says natural gas shortage could ease by tonight

FARGO, N.D. — Xcel Energy expects the shortage of natural gas cause caused by a pipeline explosion to ease as early as tonight.

The picture should clarify by this afternoon, but as of Sunday night Xcel expected the shortage to ease by tonight, when one of three affected pipelines is expected to return to service, said Mark Nisbet, Xcel’s principal North Dakota manager.

One of three TransCanada pipelines serving 100,000 Xcel customers exploded Saturday south of Winnipeg, and two nearby pipelines were taken out of service as a precaution and to assess damage.

The Xcel natural gas customers are located in eastern North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Xcel has asked customers to conserve gas to keep the system stable by lowering their thermostats to 60 degrees or cooler until further notice.

So far, residential and commercial customers have complied with the conservation request, allowing the natural gas supply system to remain stable, Nisbet said Sunday night.

“If people keep up the good work, we’ll be in better shape,” he said. “We’ll know more tomorrow, but they’re (TransCanada) making lots of progress.”

The Spicer, New London, Kandi-yohi and Cosmos areas have gas service from Xcel Energy, according to the Xcel website.

Xcel Energy on its Twitter feed Sunday said that reduced consumption by customers in all service areas would help maintain system stability.

Without conserving natural gas, the worry is that gas supplies in the system could drop to a level that some furnace pilot lights would go off, and would have to be re-lighted. In preparation for that possibility, Xcel has brought in additional crews to be on standby in strategic places to dispatch where needed, Nisbet said.

“We’re going to have a pretty sizeable crew if we have to get in there to re-light customers,” he said.

TransCanada pipeline crews have made encouraging progress on restoring one of the pipelines, which must be pressurized before it can deliver gas to Xcel’s distribution system, Nisbet said.

“Our engineers are watching the flows,” he said, adding that a valve has been turned in preparation to restore service.

Meanwhile, Xcel is getting natural gas from the area around the Twin Cities and Michigan to supply the areas in North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Starting late Saturday night, Xcel natural gas customers started receiving automated phone calls asking them to turn their thermostats to 60 degrees to conserve fuel, unless doing so would pose a danger to their health or safety.

“We’ve gotten good response from the customers to help us do that,” but continued conservation will be required, Nisbet said.

Xcel has asked almost 600 commercial customers in North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as 250 in Wisconsin and Michigan, to lower their natural gas usage. The businesses are part of the utility’s “Interruptible Gas Rates” program.

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to