More stations without gasoline as Okanagan shortage expands

The Shell gas station at Highway 97 and 39 Avenue in Vernon is one of several without gas for sale today, June 6, 2016.

OKANAGAN - The gasoline shortage impacting Petro-Canada stations in the Southern Interior has expanded, with other stations now without gas as well.

An unplanned outage at Suncor's Edmonton refinery has led to fuel shortages at Petro-Canada stations across Western Canada. Up to 18 stations are without gas in the Thompson-Okanagan, including stations in Kamloops, Merritt, Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon, according to B.C. petroleum analyst Dan McTeague.

The shortage is hitting a large section of Canada — from the B.C. Interior to Thunder Bay — with no timeline for when things will return to normal, McTeague says, adding the issue may not be short term because a central piece of equipment at the Suncor refinery in Edmonton is damaged.

“A coker broke down,” he says. “It may be time intensive to get back online.”

If the shortage continues, McTeague expects more stations to run dry. He’s heard of up to 100 stations being without gas across western Canada.

The shortage may be exacerbated by issues at the Shell-owned refinery in Edmonton as well, he says. 

With the majority of gas in western Canada coming from only three refineries in Edmonton, McTeague says the oil industry thought it could do more with less, but that can lead to problems during high consumption periods or equipment malfunctions.

“Refineries in Canada have painted themselves into a corner,” he says. “That can create a more tense situation.”

Prince George has a small refinery which produces enough gas for that region, while the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island get gas from the refineries in the U.S.

He says it's unlikey gasoline from the U.S. or other parts of Canada will be used to supply drivers in the Southern Interior due to the high cost.

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