The National Energy Board says it has deployed four investigators to the site of a BC pipeline explosion that occurred near Prince George on Tuesday.  Global News photo.

BC pipeline explosion investigation underway

The fire resulting from the BC pipeline explosion on Tuesday is out and the investigation into the blast that shut down the natural gas pipeline and forced the evacuation of a nearby First Nation is now underway.

The National Energy Board says it has deployed four staff to the site, including two emergency management specialists, a technical specialist of pipeline integrity and a safety officer.  The regulator says their role will be to oversee pipeline company Enbridge’s response as well as to work with other emergency response agencies at the site.

Partners involved in the emergency response efforts include Enbridge, the NEB, Emergency Management British Columbia, Fortis, the BC Ministry of Environment, BC Oil and Gas Commission, City of Prince George, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, Indigenous Services Canada, Regional District Fraser-Fort George and the Northern Health Authority.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is responsible for the investigation into the explosion.  The NEB says its primary role in an emergency such as the BC pipeline explosion is to ensure that people are safe and that property and the environment are protected.

The regulator says it will remain on site to verify that all reasonable actions have been taken to protect workers, the public and the environment.

On Tuesday, at about 5:30 p.m., the 2,900 kilometre long Enbridge sweet natural gas pipeline ruptured and exploded just outside the village of Shelley, about 20 kilometres north of Prince George.

Following the blast, the company ordered an immediate shut down and depressurization of the twinned pipeline.  On Wednesday, Enbridge reported that it been granted permission from the NEB to reopen the smaller 30-inch pipeline that had not been damaged in the explosion.

Enbridge says the undamaged pipeline was carefully checked prior to the restart. “Enbridge looked for evidence of damage to the pipe, geotechnical and ground disturbance, and other potential integrity issues on the 30-inch line,” the company said in a press release.  The pipeline is currently operating at 80 per cent efficiency.

FortisBC, which depends on the Enbridge pipeline for about 85 per cent of its natural gas needs, is still hoping customers will cut back on natural gas use until the pipeline is fully operational.

No injuries were reported following the explosion and most nearby residents have been allowed to return to their homes.