The largest market for diesel fuel and gasoline in Canada
has been running on "E" for nearly a month.
A fuel shortage in Ontario began following a fire Feb. 15 at
Imperial Oil's Nanticoke refinery south of Hamilton. Other factors, including a
rail strike and the annual winter icing of shipping lanes in the St. Lawrence
Seaway, contributed to the diesel shortage.
"I think it was a wake-up call for people," Joanne Ritchie,
executive director of the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, told Land Line. "It's an example of what
happens when your supply chain is disrupted."
Prices for diesel and gasoline have inched upwards during
the past few weeks in Ontario. In some areas, a liter of fuel went from 82
cents to about $1. Converted to U.S. gallons, that equates to a price increase
of between 60 and 70 cents.
About 100 retail fuel stations were closed at one point in
late February while Imperial Oil cut orders to its Esso retailers up to 40
percent, according to a company statement.
An Imperial Oil spokesman told Reuters the damaged refinery was back running at about 75-percent
capacity on Wednesday, March 7. The plant refines about 118,000 barrels per
Imperial Oil supplies about 400 Esso retailers.
Ritchie said OBAC member truckers have not reported many
problems with finding fuel. She said motorists have had a tougher time than
truckers at their usual fill-up spots.
Imperial Oil officials have said they were hoping the
Nanticoke refinery would be running at full capacity by the third week of
Imperial Oil is not the only Canadian company dealing with
fuel shortages. The rail strike - which has since been resolved - and the icing
over of the St. Lawrence Seaway have caused shortages to a smaller degree with
Shell Canada and Petro-Canada, according to the Financial Post.
To combat the problem and find fuel for truckers, the
Ontario Trucking Association called for the Federal Natural Resources Ministry
to allow off-road diesel into the on-highway supply chain. That request was
denied because the ministry does not have the authority to suspend the rule.
Ritchie said she believes the effects of the shortage will
be felt for months.
"Even when that plant gets up and running again, there's
still a capacity issue," she said.
- By David Tanner,