Refinery problems could lead to fuel shortage
Published Saturday, March 8, 2008 10:44PM EST
Gasoline supplies from Canada's largest fuel producer may soon dry up due to a breakdown at an Alberta refinery, and that could mean fuel shortages and higher gas prices in the coming months.
The problem is a major breakdown at Imperial Oil's Strathcona refinery, where nearly 40 per cent of the company's Canadian fuel is produced. Its production has been cut in half.
"As a result we would expect to see some sporadic short-term outages at retail sites across the Praires and into British Columbia over the next few weeks," said Imperial Oil spokesperson Gordon Wong.
Western Candians are already feeling the effects, where the pumps are already drying up. The ripple effect has reached Winnipeg.
The shortage has affected Esso gas stations, which are trying to fill any gaps by buying gas from other suppliers as tanks in some stations drop below 50 per cent capacity.
The problem is that there aren't many refineries. Despite millions of cars on the roads, the oil industry's capacity to make gasoline has not changed much in three decades.
"So, that's creating these pinch-points in the system and making the system much more sensitive to breakdowns and problems," says Joseph Doucet, an energy policy professor at the University of Alberta.
The shortage will be especially tough on small communities like Dugal, Manitoba. It has only one station in town.
"We live on the farm and we're travelling two vehicles back and forth every day and if we're without gas that makes it a serious situation," says motorist Adolf Vaags.
Imperial oil is hoping things will return to normal in a few weeks. Otherwise, drivers could see prices sour as gas becomes more scarce.