The Trans Mountain Pipeline remains shut down in B.C., following a precautionary closure on Sunday, Nov. 14, when an atmospheric river hit many parts of the province.
Assessments are still underway and the company says the pipeline remains safely in a static condition and there is no indication of any oil release.
However, the pipeline is a critical piece of infrastructure for B.C. and Washington State and there is concern this could impact the local fuel supply.
Experts are warning against panic buying at the pumps as this will only make supply issues even worse.
“I would suggest, though, that if (the pipeline) is not (operational) by Sunday and running at full production, one would have to expect that there are going to be shortages in the Lower Mainland and we may be dealing with something that might be a lot longer than intended, certainly by the carrier,” Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy.
“I would estimate that the amount of oil, gasoline, petroleum supply for the Lower Mainland (from the Trans Mountain Pipeline) is probably about two-thirds,” he added.
“So, not something that’s insignificant and without which you would have a hard time making up the difference, either through vessels on the high seas or from our friends south of the border who are having their own supply issues.”
Trans Mountain said it is focusing its repairing efforts in the region between Chilliwack and Merritt where the weather had the most effect on the pipeline.
Crews are also assisting the Ministry of Transportation to help clear the roads.
News of a potential gas shortage, however, has already caused some alarm.
Long gas lines have been seen in Victoria and the surrounding areas, which McTeague said is mostly a result of panic buying.
“Buy only what you need, this is not going to last very long. Please don’t go there and start bringing jerrycans and plastic bags, or whatever it is you’re wearing, which I don’t recommend anyway,” he said.
McTeague said it is a good sign gas prices on the markets have not spiked following this shutdown as that means there is no concern this closure will be long term.
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“This is the third day I’ve been watching this like a hawk, so, so far so good,” he said.
On Wednesday, B.C.’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government is working very closely with distributors and transportation companies to determine how and if new routes are required for supplies.
“We will be monitoring and working very closely to ensure that there are fuel supplies getting to where they are needed,” he said. “That will be very much a priority in terms of the work going forward.”
If needed, fuel could be trucked in from just south of the border, or fuel could be brought over on a barge and unloaded at the Parkland Refinery, McTeague said.
However, he said the railways being mostly shut down could cause a short-term supply issue as some fuel to the Interior and Lower Mainland is transported by rail.
Therefore, there could be rolling shortages.
“Gas stations throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island would be put on something called allocation, meaning they may not get their full load of gasoline to fill up their in-groud reservoir tanks, what they might get a tenth of that or a third of that and they’ll just have to keep getting filled up every three to four days,” McTeague said.
“But all this is really contingent on public behaviour. Folks, if you don’t need gasoline if you don’t need diesel, don’t buy it. Or if you only need a little bit, buy a little bit.”