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Brutally cold weather, new gas consumption record

Posted on January 7, 2015 by Maple Creek

Saskatchewan is stuck in a deep freeze.

Over the weekend, Environment Canada issued extreme cold warnings for most of the province.

Maple Creek hit a low of -30.3 C on Sunday, which felt more like -37 C with the wind chill.

In Saskatoon, temperatures dropped to -38 C plus wind chill on Sunday. That same day, Swift Current endured -32 C, which felt more like -46 C. The extreme cold warnings ended Monday.

The bitter cold has meant furnaces are constantly running, and as a result a new record for daily natural gas consumption in the province has been set.

SaskEnergy reported extreme cold temperatures contributed to the new record being set in the 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday. During that time, SaskEnergy delivered 1.27 petajoules of natural gas to customers in Saskatchewan.

This was a two per cent increase over the previous record of 1.24 PJ per day, which was set on Dec. 6, 2013.

A petajoule is a unit of measurement equivalent to one million gigajoules of natural gas. The average home in Saskatchewan consumes about 105 gigajoules of natural gas annually.

Record-setting and near record-setting usage days are occurring more frequently in the province as SaskEnergy adds new customers. Since the previous record was set, over 7,300 new customers – comprised of homes, businesses and industry – have been added to its distribution system. SaskEnergy reported its system is designed around this increased growth to ensure additional capacity so it is able to provide more natural gas than required even on peak record days.

SaskPower also reported a new power consumption record was set on Sunday at 6:20 p.m. when power usage reached a peak of 3,583 megawatts. The previous record was set in December 2013. The company said shorter daylight hours and cold temperatures were factors, and since the previous record was set, 7,800 new customers were added to its system for a total of about 500,000 customers.

The cold air will be sticking around this week, according to Environment Canada. Following a low of -22 C forecast for today, temperatures are expected to remain below -10 C until Monday when a high of -9 C is forecast.

“The data is showing that in the middle of next week we could be seeing temperatures in the Maple Creek area close to zero,” stated Environment Canada meteorologist John Paul Craig.

So far the pig spleen forecast seems to be fairly accurate, with pig spleen prognosticator Jeff Woodward predicting temperatures would go from warmer than normal to very cold within the first week of the new year. Snow on Jan. 6 was also predicted, with about seven inches falling since the weekend, and temperatures are forecast to be warmer than normal by mid-month.

Meteorologists with Environment Canada are familiar with Woodward’s unique method of predicting weather, although Craig noted they check it out just for fun.

“I haven’t tried to figure out if it’s an accurate forecast or not,” he laughed, adding it would be interesting to see just how accurate it is.

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