June 03, 2016 - 11:11 AM
PRODUCTION PROBLEMS BEHIND CLOSED PETRO-CAN GAS PUMPS
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - The Fort McMurray wildfires and an unplanned outage at an Edmonton refinery are leading to fuel shortages at Suncor's Petro-Canada stations across Western Canada.
Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal says the cumulative effects of lower crude production because of the fires and the Edmonton outage mean the company has been producing less diesel and especially less gasoline for its retail operations.
"Given the prolonged duration of the fires and its impact on the supply for our refinery, as well as ongoing planned seasonal maintenance in the industry, our product inventories are greatly reduced," Seetal said.
The company is reporting temporary shortages at Petro-Canada stations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as at sites in the British Columbia Interior.
Confused looks and questions are what the clerk at the Petro-Can gas station on Glenmore Drive in Kelowna was getting this morning when drivers pull up to the pumps and see the closed sign.
“It’s been like this all morning,” the clerk said. “I don’t know when we’re getting more gas. I think it might be tonight. We’re waiting for a phone call.”
While other Petro-Can stations are still selling fuel, the clerk said, they are also running low.
Reports of fuel shortages at other Petro-Can gas stations have begun surfacing on social media. The station at the 7-Eleven in Lake Country is out of fuel, and so are two Petro-Can stations in Vernon. So far, there are no reports of stations in Kamloops or Penticton running out of gas.
To help fill the gap, Suncor is bringing in more gasoline and diesel by truck and rail from its own network as well as from third parties.
Seetal added that Suncor is prioritizing supplies to go to stations in areas it has deemed as critical were there are few or no other refuelling options.
"This is really bad timing,' Gasbuddy.com petroleum analyst Dan McTeague said. "There's three not so positive stories for motorists right now."
He said that while the Petro-Canada shortages might not have caused a spike in prices yet, it isn't helping.
"It won't help bring them down. If you have a shortage in the system it'll keep prices up artificially," said McTeague.
Michael Ervin, senior vice-president at energy consultancy the Kent Group Ltd., says the Edmonton outage has already led to a five cent differential in wholesale Western Canadian gas prices compared with Ontario.
"That, I think, is reasonably attributable to a tightness in the Edmonton market now," said Ervin.
But he said Suncor's 142,000 barrel-a-day refinery is only expected to be out for another week so the wider impact should be limited.
"The anticipated date for it to be back online is a matter of a few days," said Ervin. "Given that I don't think there's going to be a wider ripple effect here."
Seetal said it was difficult to say when supplies would return to normal but that Suncor is working to restore the refinery and restart its oilsands operations to provide more crude oil input to its system.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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