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Why did Xcel gas service fail during critical time?

The utility doesn't admit mistake, says the temperature was too low and the load was too high

PRINCETON, Minnesota — With the turn of a wrench, the gas is restored.  And families living near Princeton can turn the heat back on.  

But Xcel Energy officials won't detail why they suffered a gas outage at a most critical time, besides saying the temperatures were too low and the load was too high.

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KARE 11 Reporter Lou Raguse: "Does Xcel not have appropriate infrastructure in place to handle temperatures like this?" 

Xcel Director of Operations, Design and Construction, Brad Sylliaasen – "We do. We designed our system for worst-case scenarios. In some cases, in these extreme situations, which again haven't seen in decades, we end up with situations like this."

Raguse: "It hasn't happened in decades, but it does happen in Minnesota. And people expect that the gas will be there."

Sylliaasen: "And we expect that gas to be there for our customers 100 percent of the time. In this situation, we had to do this to make sure we could provide that service for all the customers in the area."

All the customers in the area except for the 152 families who went close to 40 hours without service while temperatures reached 30 degrees below zero.

Raguse: "Why are we here talking with Xcel about it? We're not here talking with other gas companies about the same thing happening. What was different here?" 

Sylliaasen: "It was an extreme situation. Temperatures we haven't seen in two decades."

Raguse: "A lot of people are wondering why a utility will fail them at the time they need it the most."

Sylliaasen: "Correct. And like I said before, these types of extreme situations allow us to evaluate the system and what changes we might need to make sure we can adjust to these types of situations."

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Wednesday night, Xcel needed to pipe in compressed natural gas from a tanker truck in order to keep up.

Company officials say they will look into whether more infrastructure is needed. They are thanking customers for their patience, but Xcel is not saying any mistakes were made.

"What I could say is the system could not handle the load that was put on it at that time," Sylliaasen said.