Fuel relief for farmers, truckers seen coming soon

Production increases and the re-opening of the Suncor refinery plant in Edmonton may soon provide relief from the headaches Western Canada’s diesel shortage have given farmers and truckers in recent weeks.

Ted Stoner, vice-president of the western Canadian division of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, said problems with western Canadian diesel supply started in October. A fire at the Consumers Co-operative Refineries (CCRL) facility in Regina caused diesel production to fall by 20 per cent at the plant, he said.

A third party supplier of hydrogen to the Suncor refinery in Edmonton, which allows Suncor to make low-sulfur diesel, also had a plant failure, causing a further 20 per cent reduction in diesel production at the Edmonton plant, he said.

Farmers have been hit hard by the resulting spike in western Canadian diesel costs.

Humphrey Banack, president of Alberta’s Wild Rose Producers Association, said the group has seen freight increases of six to eight per cent for farmers and additional fuel surcharges hurting farmers’ pocketbooks.

Alberta farmers are trying to limit transportation costs by transporting products themselves when possible, he said.

The trucking industry has had its own issues. Rod Miron, an operations manager with Arnold Transportation in Winnipeg, said Saskatchewan’s diesel supply is still limited, especially in Regina.

Drivers have not been able to ride overnight due to restricted hours on diesel stations in various areas, he said. Monitoring of fuel sites, in order to only use supply when needed, has also occurred, he added.

However, Winnipeg has been fortunate not to have the problems that other areas have, Miron said. That has allowed the company to take the extra precaution of drivers fuelling up their tanks at full capacity so they can have longer trips without having to fuel their trucks more often, he said.

Stoner said Regina’s CCRL refinery has imported diesel from the U.S. to offset some of the shortage, and the refinery should be back up and running in full capacity by spring of 2012, as it is being repaired.

West Coast diesel production was also ramped up to provide support to Suncor’s downward production, Stoner said.

However, the plant was back up and running at full production capacity as of the third week in November, with hydrogen again being sent to the plant to produce low-sulfur diesel, he said.

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