Gas shortage causes closure of 25 Petro-Canada stations

Finding fuel in the Greater Toronto Area became even harder Thursday after Petro-Canada temporarily closed 25 gas stations the day before in an effort to keep larger sites topped up.

Finding fuel inthe Greater Toronto Areabecame even harder Thursday after Petro-Canada temporarily closed 25 gas stations the day beforein an effort to keep larger sites topped up.

Twenty-five of the company's 205 stations in theToronto areawere deliberately shut down,likely forone to two days,to divertfuel to larger centres in the face of the gas shortage in Ontario.

"We have taken the tough decision to close a small number of our smaller sites and so we can focus on replenishing our larger sites," said Petro-Canada spokesman Jon Hamilton.

Across the province, 75 of the company's 440 stations ran out of gas on Wednesday.

The gas shortage has left some motorists and taxi drivers hunting for open stations, then facing lengthy lines when they find one.

'Stay calm,' McGuinty urges

Premier Dalton McGuintyasked the public to stay calm and asked oil companies to ensure no community completely runs out of gas.

"The first thing that I would say to Ontarians is 'Let's stay cool. Let's stay calm. We're going to get through this together,'" McGuinty said Wednesday.

The provincewide gas shortage should be over within seven to 10 days, McGuinty said, adding that it was brought on by the "perfect storm" of conditions.

"This is not the fault of anyone," said McGuinty.

Gas prices rising

The shortage was the result of a combination of circumstances, including a Feb. 15 fire at the Imperial Oil Ltd. refinery in Nanticoke, Ont., that haltedcrude oilproduction there, as well as a CN Rail strike and the frozen St. Lawrence Seaway slowing down delivery.

Imperial said the refinery has begun processing crude oil, but won't be back to full production until mid-March.

Petro-Canadais calling this an industry problem that requires a collective effort to solve.

Temporary shortages have hit Shell Canada and Canadian Tire, whose main supplier is Imperial, as well as the Imperial-operated Esso stations.

Gas pricesjumped the dollar mark in Toronto Thursday, with a high of 103.9 cents per litre in parts of the city.

In the wake of gas shortages, the average cost of a litre of regular gas across thecountryhit a six-month highat 98.1 cents earlier this week— the highest since last August's $1.03 mark, according to MJ Ervin & Associates, a firm that analyses gas prices.