Demand to exceed gas supply by 2004 

Centra Gas to seek public input on options to increase capacity

New hotels, new home construction and a rapidly growing population are starting to put a strain on Centra Gas’s propane facilities in Whistler. While the utility can handle current demands, the company says demand is on pace to exceed supply in late 2004.

Centra Gas currently provides propane to about 2,000 customers in Whistler, including the larger hotels and properties in town. They currently operate two storage facilities in town, including a site in Nesters and a site in Function Junction, and both are maxed out in terms of capacity.

In addition, when the last expansion for Centra was approved in the spring of 2000, Whistler council passed a motion preventing any future expansions within municipal boundaries.

Given these limitations, Centra Gas hopes to put a plan in place this fall, with public input. At the last council meeting on July 15, Paul Madsen, the manager of business development, large markets, for Centra Gas, outlined three options for Whistler – a natural gas pipeline, a liquid natural gas storage depot outside of Whistler, or a propane storage depot outside of Whistler.

"We don’t really have a favourite at this point," Madsen said. "We have looked at a pipeline in quite a bit of detail, we’ve looked at propane expansion in quite a bit of detail. LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) is a relatively new option that we’re trying to get a better understanding of, but it’s definitely an option."

There was also a fourth option in conservation and demand management, but Madsen feels that alone won’t be sufficient to curtail the growing demand for gas in Whistler.

"The demand continues to grow in Whistler in spite of the fact that there is obviously a conservation ethic, and a high level of environmental sensitivity," said Madsen. "There are more hotels going in and more people are moving to Whistler. Some form of demand management might help us get over the peaks, but it remains to be seen whether that could be a complete solution without something else. We see it as something that might complement one of the other options."

According to Madsen, Centra has to put together a solution based on peak demands, "what would occur in a very cold weekend in February when all of the hotels are sold out and everyone needs the maximum heating capacity." To ensure that the utility can provide gas to everyone during these times, you need room to move – a surplus of gas, year-round.

A natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler would be ideal, although it would require extensive construction and Centra would have to adapt all of its customers’ appliances with different sized pipe orifices to be able to burn natural gas.

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