TRU turns down heat after Enbridge pipeline explosion

University cutting back on its natural gas use after pipeline explodes in Prince George

Feeling colder at university lately? TRU has turned down the heat by four degrees in all buildings. (jasleen_kaur/Flickr)

Two weeks ago, just 15 km northeast of Prince George, an Enbridge natural gas pipeline exploded. The dramatic explosion resulted in around 100 members of a nearby first nations community having to be evacuated from the town. Following the explosion, gas supplier FortisBC said that up to 70 per cent of their customer base could face a gas shortage as a result.

The explosion site is still out of commission, but is expected to be back up soon according to Enbridge in a press release.

A number of companies across B.C. have committed to lowering their gas usage in order to help make sure everyone who needs natural gas is able to get it.

The Omega spoke to Jim Gudjonson, director of sustainability at Thompson Rivers University about what TRU has done to mitigate natural gas usage at the university.

“All Enbridge customers were asked to reduce their use as much as possible,” Gudjonson said.

This is because the pipeline that delivered gas to Kamloops and beyond had the be shut down while the incident was under investigation. Since then, gas has once again begun to flow, but only at 80 per cent of regular capacity.

“We have dashboards in our buildings so we can monitor the rates. It’s somewhere between 15-20 per cent we think,”  said Gudjonson about how much TRU has cut their natural gas use over the past couple weeks.

“About 90 per cent of our natural gas goes to heating our buildings,” Gudjonson added.

Since an overwhelming majority of the gas we use at the university goes to heating its buildings, logic would dictate that the next step would be to lower the temperature of the school.

“We can monitor our school’s temperature. For every degree we go down we save about five per cent,” Gudjonson said. “We’re usually around 23 degrees, so we’re going down to 19. So we figure it’s about 20 per cent.”

According to TRU’s sustainability plan, natural gas makes up about 55 per cent of the total energy used at the school.

By simply reducing the temperature by four degrees, we are able to cut back on 20 per cent of our gas usage, which by extension is around ten per cent of the school’s total energy usage. TRU has a variety of other practices to encourage sustainability, maybe it’s time we adopted this as an additional policy.

“We have the largest solar hot water heating system in British Columbia that heats the hot water for culinary at the school. We do purchase clean gas from a methane free capture,” Gudjonson said. “We’ve been involved in energy saving programs for 8 years. In that eight years we’ve cut energy usage by 35 per cent.”

TRU plans to continue creating and implementing new sustainable projects for the school to further reduce our ecological impact. Looking at the numbers, it would make sense to target natural gas heating next.