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OTA calling for use of off-road fuel in wake of province-wide shortages

TORONTO, Ont. -- In the wake of Imperial Oils recent refinery fire, the Ontario Trucking Association is calling on...

TORONTO, Ont. — In the wake of Imperial Oils recent refinery fire, the Ontario Trucking Association is calling on the federal government to temporarily allow truckers to use off-road and farm-grade fuel. The fire at Imperial Oils Nanticoke, Ont. facility, coupled with the recent CN rail strike, has lead to shortages at almost 75 of Essos 400 Ontario stations. Fuel costs have soared as much as 20% as a result.<br>
The industry is solely dependent upon diesel fuel. Should the current situation persist or get worse, the impact on the Ontario economy could be enormous, said OTA president David Bradley.

Bradley says OTA has always shied away from regulation of fuel prices, and admits that even if there were a regulatory or legislative solution it couldnt be introduced and passed in time to resolve the situation the industry is now experiencing. So, it is looking for other ways the federal and provincial governments could help. It is OTAs understanding that the current supply crisis in Ontario could be resolved if on a temporary basis oil companies were allowed to resume producing and selling diesel fuel with 500 ppm sulphur content to the trucking industry, he says. Truck diesel fuel with 500 ppm sulphur content was the industry standard up until October of last year when a new Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) standard which caps the sulphur content at 15 ppm was mandated by the federal government. Diesel fuel with sulphur content of 500 ppm and above is still used in off-road applications like rail and agricultural machinery.

According to OTA, this measure would be consistent with the strategy employed by the US federal government to ensure adequate fuel supply in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At that time, coloured fuel (typically off-road grade with >500 ppm sulphur content) was temporarily allowed for use in on-road applications.

There is no discounting the environmental benefits of ULSD but we may already be in crisis mode where trucking operations are beginning to find it difficult to obtain diesel to fuel their trucks, Bradley says. Were that to happen, the impact on the economy would make the current service disruptions in the rail sector look like a tea party. There would have to be some ULSD available for the new 2007 model year truck engines, he says, but at this time there are relatively few of those in operation.

Imperial Oil says it is in the process of repairing the refinery and expects to resume production by the end of the month.

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