PEA RIDGE, Ark — Update: Black Hills Energy technicians worked efficiently over the past three days and have accomplished a full restoration of natural gas service to customers in the City of Pea Ridge.
As of 1 p.m., nearly all of the approximately 2,300 homes and businesses that lost service due to a loss of pressure on the Black Hills Energy system on Monday have been restored, with less than 20 customers remaining.
All affected customers have been contacted. Any customer who has not had gas restored should call Black Hills Energy at 888-890-5556 to schedule service to be restored. It is extremely important that customers do not attempt this themselves.
“At the start of the restoration process, we were hopeful we could make swift progress, but knew factors, including winter weather conditions could cause delays,” said Chad Kinsley, vice president of operations for Black Hills Energy Arkansas. “Our customers are extremely important to us. All of our crews were unified in wanting to restore service as safely and quickly as possible.”
“We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who assisted us in this effort,” Kinsley continued. “The City of Pea Ridge and the technicians who traveled to lend a hand, and our customers and community who extended us their patience and support through this process.”
Black Hills Energy released the following statement regarding the outage:
"On Tuesday, February 16, Black Hills Energy experienced a temporary loss of pressure on the natural gas system supplying customers in the City of Pea Ridge. As a result, service was interrupted to the customers in that community.
Black Hills Energy technicians began monitoring the Pea Ridge transmission border station at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, February 16 when natural gas transmission lines began to experience low pressure in other parts of the country affected by the storms. Technicians were staged in numerous locations across portions of the Black Hills system throughout the weather event to monitor pressures.
The unprecedented cold weather experienced across much of the country this week resulted in significant high demand for natural gas. The loss of pressure that occurred on the system serving Pea Ridge was directly related to this increased demand. Service was safely restored to most of the affected customers by early afternoon on February 18.
In 2020, Black Hills Energy filed for, and received, state approval to upgrade a portion of the natural gas system serving the Pea Ridge area. These upgrades will support the natural gas needs of current residents during extreme low temperatures and also provide additional capacity for the continued growth of that region.
“We forecasted that additional capacity would be needed to meet the future natural gas needs of the growing Pea Ridge area,” said Chad Kinsley, vice president of gas operations for Black Hills Energy in Arkansas. “What we could not forecast was the unprecedented extreme and prolonged cold weather experienced this week.”Work on the previously scheduled project to increase system capacity in Pea Ridge will begin this spring."
Service restoration efforts resumed for customers in Pea Ridge on Wednesday (Feb. 17).
Thousands of Pea Ridge Black Hills Energy customers found themselves without natural gas on Tuesday (Feb. 16) as snow and record-breaking low temperatures blanketed the region.
Black Hills Energy technicians worked into the night on Tuesday to shut off 2,300 gas meters in Pea Ridge in order to purge and pressure test the system before bringing natural gas customers back online.
On Wednesday morning, more than 80 Black Hills technicians spread across the city, working to safely and efficiently complete customer relights.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, service has been restored to 70% of the affected customers in Pea Ridge. Black Hills Energy technicians will continue to work into the evening to restore service.
It may take several days before all houses, including those that are currently unoccupied, are restored.
“The process of bringing customers back on to the system requires several steps,” said Chad Kinsley, vice president of operations Black Hills Energy Arkansas. “We must first make sure all gas meters are off, then purge the system so it’s ready for the reintroduction of the natural gas supply. Finally, our technicians will go door-to-door and relight each customer’s gas appliances.”
Robert Shaw is one of the Pea Ridge residents who is without natural gas needed to heat his home.
“We were worried about the rolling electrical blackouts and we actually got a phone call saying they were going to turn our power off. When that hit we were preparing for that. We were like, we’ll be fine we have gas and then no gas…So, it got a little chilly, got a little cold,” he said.
Elisha Conduff’s home is also without gas.
“The last couple of years have been crazy and full of surprises and crazy things happening, so I wasn’t really surprised. I mean we are going to get an epic snowfall, then something is bound to happen. We were kind of prepared,” she said.
She says despite not having heat her family has been able to stay warm.
“We put blankets and everything over the windows and doors and put everybody in the front part of the house and using our oven. We have an electric oven and stove thankfully, so that’s warmed the front part of the house. So, everybody stayed pretty warm. We’re blessed,” she said.
Customers should not attempt to relight their appliances on their own.
During the purging process, a small amount of gas will safely dissipate into the air, but there is a possibility that residents will detect a faint gas smell. Natural gas has a distinct odor, similar to a rotten egg, due to the addition of a chemical called Mercaptan. The process is safe and Black Hills Energy technicians will be present during the process.
When a technician arrives to restore service, they will turn on the meter and then perform a variety of safety checks on gas appliances indoors, measuring for gas and carbon monoxide to identify any safety issues.
Black Hills Energy customers can help expedite the relighting efforts by clearing snow and providing access to gas meters and restraining pets who may be on the premises.
Someone over 18 years of age is required to be present during the relighting process, so customers can also help by being in the residence today if possible.
At locations where no one is home or the business is closed, a tag will be left on the door notifying the customer that the natural gas has been shut off and to call the company for it to be turned back on.
For customers who may be out of the area and whose homes or commercial buildings are not open at this time, please call the customer service center at 888-890-5554 to schedule a date and time to restore service.
A warming station for residents that was previously set up at 781 W Pickens Road in Pea Ridge has been relocated to 1391 Weston Street.
Customers can visit the Black Hills Energy website for updates on service restoration.
Utility companies across the region will be hosting planned outages to help reserve energy during this winter storm. The disruption in Pea Ridge was not one of those planned outages.