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A British Columbia natural gas supplier is warning its one million customers to expect reduced supplies and “challenges in times of high demand” as winter looms.

FortisBC says in a statement that the Oct. 9 rupture and explosion of the Enbridge natural gas pipeline northeast of Prince George will mean a reduced supply for months.

Although Enbridge says it expects to have the ruptured pipeline in service by mid-November, it also advises that the pressure in that line, and in a smaller natural gas pipeline nearby, will remain below maximum levels until spring.

FortisBC says that means natural gas supplies provincewide will be limited to 50 to 80 per cent of normal levels during the coldest months of the year.

Company vice-president Doug Stout says more gas is being routed through a pipeline across southern B.C., which feeds the Interior from Alberta, and Fortis is working to provide enough fuel to keep logging, mining and other industries operating.

Fortis says it is also seeking additional natural gas in the open marketplace, but urges all customers to turn down thermostats, cut back on hot water and conserve wherever possible.

“We will have a shortage of gas compared to what we would normally have to operate with during the cold periods,” says Stout in a video statement.

He says conservation will ensure all British Columbians are able to access natural gas for essential uses, and he thanks those whose efforts had reduced natural gas consumption by about 20 per cent within a week of the fiery blast on the Enbridge pipeline.

There were no injuries when the pipeline exploded earlier this month and the RCMP says it does not suspect criminal activity, but the cause of the blast has yet to be determined.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board and the National Energy Board continue to investigate a cause.

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