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Western Canadian fuel supplies running low

CALGARY, Alta. -- Alberta has been hit hard by a fuel shortage at Esso stations, but diesel users are suffering les...

CALGARY, Alta. — Alberta has been hit hard by a fuel shortage at Esso stations, but diesel users are suffering less than gasoline consumers and it appears neighbouring provinces have not yet been impacted.

A random poll of a few B.C. Esso stations from Vancouver to Chilliwack, on Friday afternoon indicated that this province isn’t suffering from a fuel shortage – yet. However the city of Calgary has been hit hard, according to one employee who was working at a full service station.

“Diesel is fine,” says Melissa Johnson, “but super is out, and we can’t sell mid-grade. Tonight we should be out of regular.”

The cause of the gasoline and diesel shortage is due to “operating issues” related to Calgary-based Imperial Oil’s Strathcona, Alta. refinery, according to company spokesman Gordon Wong, which he noted would affect Western Canada, but in varying degrees.

“There might be a possibility of sporadic outages at retail outlets across the Prairies and possibly B.C.,” says Wong, who indicates that an Esso gas station Web alert won’t be available from Imperial Oil, because the sporadic nature of the shortage, and re-supply, would offer an unreliable information outlet. “Our expectation is that the majority (of fuel outages) will be sporadic and of a short nature,” he added.

Imperial Oil predicted that metropolitan fuel stations in a centre like Calgary, may offer a less reliable fuel source, than an isolated station in B.C. where there are few options, and possibly no other fuel source for 100 km. “The goal is to try and keep the stations up and running and customers supplied as quickly as possible,” he says.

The company is considering all options in trying to secure additional supplies of fuel, including possibly purchasing from other refiners or importing, according to Wong.

“Imperial’s top priority is to minimize the inconvenience to our customers as much as possible and to restore the company’s Strathcona refinery to normal operations as quickly as possible.”

Imperial Oil told the Globe and Mail, that operating issues are technical and linked to a fuel-processing unit, causing the facility to run at a reduced rate. The units that were impacted have been idled for assessment and repair. The shortages are expected to continue for at least the next few weeks, and alternative supplies are being investigated.

Meanwhile, other fuel retailers in Western Canada have stepped up efforts to keep their markets supplied after Imperial Oil’s recent announcement, according to the Canadian Press. Parkland Income Fund with its chain of Western Canada filling stations has been helping out. Parkland runs service stations under various brands, and buys its gasoline from Imperial, Shell and Petro-Canada refineries. Petro-Canada’s refinery has also been able to keep its chain of service stations well supplied.

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