Some Toronto area gas stations run out of fuel

Motorists are pulling up at some Toronto-area gas stations to find the pumps are dry. The oil companies that supply fuel in the area have said it’s a temporary situation, but analysts say drivers should get used to it.

Extreme weather blamed, but some analysts say Canada lacks refinery capacity

Some drivers have pulled up to gas stations in the Toronto area in the past week to find the pumps are empty. (Seth Perlman/Associated Press)

Motorists are pulling up at some Toronto-area gas stations to find that the pumps are dry.

The oil companies that supply fuel in the area have said it’s a temporary situation, caused by extreme winter weather and a power outage.

But Natural Resources Canada says southern Ontario and other parts of Canada may face frequent gasoline shortages in the future, as nearby refineries are already operating at capacity.

Without new refining capacity “supply interruptions could become more frequent and increasingly difficult to manage,” the government agency says in an online report.

Canadians increased their consumption of gasoline by two per cent or 800 million litres in the first nine months of 2014, to 38 billion litres.

"Petroleum companies are suggesting this is logistics. I sense there's product issue somewhere as the weather is not likely to have contributed to this shortfall, which covers the entire Golden Horseshoe," said Dan McTeague, with GasBuddy.ca, which tracks the price of gasoline.

Inventories for gasoline and diesel are falling even as unrefined crude sits in storage, he said.

He points to several U.S. developments which could stall gasoline production rates, including extreme cold, unscheduled and unforeseen repairs and a labour strike. 

Bill Simpkins of the Canadian Fuels Association said he does not believe there is any widespread shortage of supply from refineries. There have been similar shortages in Moncton, he said, also caused by difficulties in delivery trucks getting through in extreme weather.

Power out, extreme weather

There have been shortages reported at Esso, Shell and Petro-Canada stations in the Toronto area in the past week.

A spokeswoman for Imperial Oil said the current shortages at its Esso stations in the GTA were caused by a power outage March 3 and 4 at its Finch terminal in Toronto.

She said power has been restored and trucks are back on the road to deliver gasoline.

Petro-Canada said its shortages have been caused by extreme weather that has held up delivery.

"We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers and we are working to minimize the impact," Nicole Fisher, a spokeswoman for Suncor Energy, owner of Petro-Canada, said in an email to CBC.

Shell station owners said gas stations throughout southern Ontario had run out of gas because of a temporary outage at a Sarnia refinery.

But a Shell Canada spokesman said everything was normal at its Sarnia refinery and any shortages were caused by delays in delivery because of the weather. 

"They might be out of regular, so they'll offer premium at the same price," the spokesman said. "They will be restocked shortly."

The shortages come despite a glut of crude oil across North America, which has driven down the price of gasoline along with other petroleum products.

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