True North Calling

5 quick facts about fuel in Iqaluit

Fuel is only delivered to the Nunavut capital four months out of the year.

New series 'True North Calling' features dependence on fuel in Nunavut's capital

Taking Risks – Fueling the Community

5 years ago
Duration 1:25
Franco Buscemi works to keep Iqaluit well stocked in fuel. The stakes are high — if they run out too soon, they don't get more supplied until July.

As general manager of Iqaluit's fuel plant, there's one thing Franco Buscemi is terrified of.

"If we ran out of fuel, if we had no fuel in the community, there'd definitely have to be an evacuation," he said.

A steady supply of fuel is essential for survival in northern communities, and the residents of Iqaluit know firsthand the reality and dangers of living in a remote area. One of the more precarious aspects of their daily life is their dependence on fuel — it's only delivered to them four months out of the year. 

Here are five things you need to know about Iqaluit's relationship with fuel.

1. Iqaluit needs over 60 million litres of fuel per year

The growing community of 7,200 people uses over 60 million litres of fuel to operate a year for things like home heating and power generation.

2. Every home in Iqaluit has its own fuel tank

As the only province in Canada that's reliant exclusively on imported fossil fuels, it makes sense that every home in the capital and largest community of Nunavut has their own fuel tank. 

3. Small community, large carbon footprint

No road access means the community has to fly supplies and people in and out, this includes people requiring medical attention, search and rescue operations and food deliveries which requires a lot of jet fuel. Franco points out that life in the north leaves a large carbon footprint.

4. Transferring fuel is a lengthy process

Delivery takes place from July to November. As Franco describes in the video above, petroleum is pumped from a ship docked 140 metres away from the shore through hoses attached to the main land pipe that go to the tank farms.

5. Fuel transfer poses high environmental risks

The Nunavut Economic Forum has described the above method as posing a very high environmental risk due to the inability to quickly respond to a spill and the dangers it poses to the workers. Also, as a community dependant on fresh game, a spill could also contaminate Iqaluit's food resources.