An order to devise a storage delivery service that would prevent pipeline traffic jams from depressing Canadian natural gas prices has been given to TC Energy Corp.’s supply collection grid, Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL).

After a seven-month review, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) directed NGTL Thursday to submit the new plan by June 30 for its network spanning Alberta and British Columbia (BC).

CER rejected a request by the 140-company Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (EPAC) for a one-year extension of an emergency service that NGTL accepted in mid-2019 as a temporary, two-year antidote to severely depressed prices.

NGTL assured CER that it has been developing a permanent storage delivery program that would help its gas-producer customers without sacrificing pipeline needs for reliable transportation contracts.

The expiring emergency scheme followed years of volatile prices. The wild ride was blamed partly on NGTL capacity shortages and service interruptions by construction that combined to turn the Alberta and BC pipeline grid into a lopsided gas buyers’ market.

In 2019 the monthly Alberta Reference Price (ARP), a weighted average fetched by production for all Canadian and U.S. destinations, bottomed out at C55 cents/GJ (43 cents/MMBtu) before the emergency storage service began.

The lowest 2020 ARP, hit last April when gas market shrinkage because of the Covid-19 pandemic was at its worst, was C$1.56 ($1.23).