While British Colombians in flood-hit communities continue to see lineups and sporadic outages at gas stations, experts say the province is in no immediate danger of running out of fuel.
But in the long run, BC’s gasoline supply is dependent on the resumption of operations of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has been idle since Sunday as a precautionary measure due to floods and extreme weather in parts of the province where it operates.
In the days after floods and leaching damaged railroads and highways and cut off access from parts of BC to the rest of the country, residents of the westernmost province have experienced long queues and in some cases a complete shortage of products at gas stations in some communities.
“Petroleum retailers are experiencing challenges in achieving a stable fuel supply,” BC-based Peninsula Co-op said on its website. “We are working hard to mitigate the disruptions, but expect it to take several days to stabilize.”
The Saanich Police Department said on social media on Thursday that petrol stations in the Victoria area were causing traffic disruptions to the point that BC Transit had to divert its buses to alternative routes.
But Vijay Muralidharan – Calgary-based director of consulting with Kalibrate, formerly Kent Group Ltd. – said that these problems are not the result of the closure of the pipeline or a lack of overall fuel supply in the province. While 40 percent of BC’s gasoline arrives in the province as a refined product from Alberta through the Trans Mountain pipeline, BC also produces its own gasoline at a Burnaby refinery owned by Parkland Corporation.
BC also imports gasoline from the state of Washington, he said.
“Supplies are coming in,” Muralidharan said, adding that the disruptions at gas stations are instead the result of trucks having difficulty navigating flood-prone highways and they should be temporary. While the timeline for reopening some of the major truck routes, such as Coquihalla, is unknown, others should be navigable sooner. The BC Department of Transportation said it hoped to have Highway 7, for example, open to traffic between Hope and Aggasiz by the end of Thursday.
“There will be some supply disruptions for a few days, but the floodwaters are already receding in parts of BC, so I think you will see a delay as soon as the trucks start moving,” Muralidharan said.
Muralidharan added that the Burnaby refinery typically has at least two weeks’ supply of crude oil in stock so it can use its own warehouses to maintain refinery operations in the immediate future. But in the long run, he said, it will be crucial to get Trans Mountain up and running again.
“The big question will be how long the pipeline will be shut down,” he said.
Parkland Corp. Spokeswoman Larissa Mark said in an email that the Burnaby refinery is in operation and that the company “effectively manages” its stocks of crude oil and other products.
“The broader supply chain of essential fuels is resilient, and if necessary, we have some options and preparedness to import fuel from the Pacific Northwest to the lower mainland,” Mark said. “We are closely monitoring the temporary shutdown of the Trans Mountain pipeline and rail disruptions.”
In a statement posted on its website Thursday, Trans Mountain Corp. said. – The Crown company that operates the federally owned pipeline – that everything is being done to restart the pipeline in a safe way as soon as possible.
“Trans Mountain is in regular contact with its shippers and is working to mitigate the potential effects of the pipeline being shut down for the region,” the statement said.
According to the company, there has been no indication of any oil spill from the pipeline and it remains “safe in a static state.” However, the company said there are areas where it will be necessary to restore coverage over the pipe or make other repairs to ensure the integrity of the line where it has been exposed due to flooding. Right now, access to some areas is still hampered by rubbish and washed-out roads and bridges.
Suncor Energy Inc., which owns the Petro-Canada brand of retail gas stations, said Thursday that it is not experiencing any significant supply impacts in BC due to the extreme weather situation.
“But a few Petro-Canada locations have been closed and we are currently unable to service others due to road closures in areas directly affected by the weather,” said Suncor spokesman Leith Slade. “We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days and we will look to reopen and resume service to all affected locations as soon as possible.”
—Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press
oil and gas