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Extreme cold weather and natural gas to the rescue

Canada suffered record-breaking frigid temperatures over the holidays. Natural gas is a flexible fuel helping keep our homes warm and the lights on.

Bone-chilling cold weather settled over most of Canada from Christmas to early in the new year. For example, on December 28, Toronto smashed a nearly 57-year-old low temperature record for the date at minus 22 Celsius (the previous record, set in 1960, was minus 18.9 Celsius), according to Environment Canada. Parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec set historic low temperatures on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“Under these conditions, the role of natural gas as a reliable, flexible source of energy becomes more critical than ever,” says Menaloas Ydreos, executive director, public affairs, International Gas Union. Ydreos notes that natural gas meets nearly 75 percent of the winter industrial, commercial and residential heating needs of Ontario. It’s also a critical on-demand fuel for electrical power generation.

IESO graph

Graph shows Ontario power supply mix on December 28, 2017: Natural gas power generation (dark blue) rose to meet peak demand during the cold snap. Source: Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

“On December 28, as the cold air moved into the province, wind speeds dropped and wind-generated electricity output fell to a mere 129 megawatts of an installed capacity of 4,500 megawatts,” says Ydreos, referring to Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) published data on Ontario’s power supply mix.
“On the other hand, while natural gas-fired power generation output was at 1,300 megawatts in the early morning hours, by mid-day, the power output rose to nearly 4,500 megawatts: more than three times the output from the early morning hours.” 
“That ability of natural gas to meet peaks in electricity demand during extreme summer and winter weather conditions makes it a critical power source,” says Ydreos. “It ensures the lights stay on, that air conditioners work in summer hot weather, and our furnaces keep running under extremely cold conditions.” Ydreos adds that natural gas is the cleanest-burning and most flexible hydrocarbon, and an affordable energy source.