Centra Gas proposes propane plan Temporary steps until natural gas comes By Chris Woodall Centra Gas wants to keep the same number of off-load towers, but add pipeline loops and longer working hours to stop-gap Whistler's need for propane gas until it receives approval to build a natural gas pipeline in 1999. That is the essence of its proposal to the B.C. Utilities Commission for the 1998-99 winter heating season. The interim plan was needed after a hasty move to get an okay to build the natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler fell through under various approval deadline pressures. The propane expansion proposal is before the utilities commission. Centra Gas and the commission are determining this week if questions by Whistler stakeholders will force a public meeting on the proposal. The temporary steps, if allowed by the utilities commission, will cost customers $265,120 spread over several decades, says Geoff Higgins, Centra Gas supervisor of regulatory affairs. There are four parts to Centra Gas's proposal. First, by sticking with the two railroad off-load towers at Mons, Centra will incur $20,120 in extra operating costs as more man-hours will be needed to unload the 234 rail cars of propane gas expected to keep Whistler homes and businesses toasty warm this coming winter. Adding a third tower was contemplated, but it would cost $75,000 and only be in service for 14 months when the natural gas pipeline would make all three redundant. Even then, the third tower won't be needed but for six months, until the peak of the November-April "heating season." It takes eight hours to off-load two rail cars. Second, by hooking into the internet, Centra says it can track BC Rail deliveries to time getting rail cars to Whistler to prevent running out of fuel. The gas company will also "develop a list of customers willing to participate in an emergency propane management program of turning off unnecessary equipment" such as outdoor hot tub, Jacuzzi, pool and patio heaters, the proposal says. Third, Centra wants to place three temporary 18,000 US gallon mobile propane tanks at the Nesters plant site. These would be connected to the rest of the tanks and would cost $18,000 to install. The tanks will sit on steel grate foundations that conform to safety and seismic rules. Fourth, by looping pipeline through (1) the village 500 metres along Northlands Boulevard between Lorimer Road and Village Gate Boulevard; and (2) along Blueberry Drive for 800 metres, Centra can maintain pressure in the pipelines as new customers hook onto them, Higgins says. The pipeline loops will eventually shunt natural gas. It will cost $147,000 to bury the loops, exclusive of engineering, inspection and administrative overheads. Customers will foot the bill in three ways. Extra labour costs to operate the two towers with the added number of rail cars expected will be passed onto gas bills during the next heating season, Higgins says. The cost to bury the pipeline loops will be spread out over the 50-year expected service life of the loops, Higgins says. The expense of the three temporary propane tanks will be spread out over a much shorter period of time, but that will be determined when a final time line for the natural gas pipeline project can be set, Higgins says.