Diesel shortage irks drivers

Houston diesel users are rationing fuel after a quadruple whammy cut supply to Co-Op Petroleum.

Wayne Rosentreter fills up on diesel at Co-Op Petroleum for a trip to Huckleberry Mine on Nov. 29. Rosentreter said this is the first time he has had to ration diesel fuel in his 45-year career.

Houston diesel users are rationing fuel after a quadruple whammy cut supply to Co-Op Petroleum.

Filling up at the Co-Op Cardlock on Highway 16, trucker Wayne Rosentreter said the rations haven’t cost his company yet, but they could.

“I’ve been driving truck for 45 years and I’ve never been under fuel rationing before,” he said. “The thing that really bothers us is that Chevron isn’t having a problem, and they took the Chevron out of here.”

Under the ration, Co-Op members are not allowed to fill up more than 300 litres per member card.

“We’re lucky,” Rosentreter said. “We’ve got a couple of trucks and one is down, so we’re using a card from one of those.”

Still, Rosentreter said that his route to Huckleberry Mines burns more than 600 litres a day if the trucks are running 24 hours.

The only reason the rationing hasn’t cost him a trip yet is bad winter winter weather—so far, the Arrow trucks have had to hold back from a 24-hour schedule.

Cliff Irving, the Co-Op Petroleum manager for northwest B.C. said last Friday that he expects the 300-litre limit to be lifted sometime this week.

“We think we’re over the worst of it,” he said. “I know it got tight, and there are people panicked. But the card-locks are going so long as nobody’s hoarding product.”

The diesel shortage resulted from a run of bad luck in fuel supply and in demand.

On Oct. 6, a pipe ruptured and caught fire at the Federated Co-operatives refinery north of Regina.

That slowed the Co-Op’s diesel production down to 83 per cent of capacity, said Irving.

To make up that shortfall, Irving said the Co-Op brought in  fuel by rail and barge from Minnesota, North Dakota and Alaska.

But even with the shortfall covered, other problems cropped up.

Petro-Can’s Edmonton refinery, one of the largest in Western Canada, also ran into problems. Several major oil companies that the Co-Op has exchanges with also experienced a hydrogen shortage.

Canadian crude has a high sulphur content, so oil companies use hydrogen to de-sulfurize it, Irving said. That way, he said the resulting diesel meets Canada’s emissions standards.

“The long and the short of it is that all of a sudden, they put us on allocation because they were short of hydrogen,” said Irving.

Yet another factor is that B.C.’s forestry, mines and other resource companies motored right from summer to winter. Usually, a few weeks of wet fall weather slows operations down.

“On top of that, we had great, great harvest on the Prairies,” he said, adding that the extra-busy Prairie farmers used a lot more diesel than normal.

“The combination made the supply in Western Canada get very, very tight,” Iriving said he expects the rations will be lifted this week, now that the Petro-Can refinery is back online.

He also said the Co-Cop just finished building a 300-million litre tank farm in Vanderhoof to give it more of a buffer in case of future refinery problems or road closures.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get it full. And that’s 10 days supply for our northern customers,” he said.


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