Fuel supply woes affecting southwestern British Columbia could last longer than the government has estimated, according to one petroleum analyst.
Canadians for Affordable Energy president Dan McTeague said with the Trans Mountain pipeline not expected to be back online until the end of next week, “we’re probably still a week-and-a-half to two weeks away” from the fuel market returning to normal.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the pipeline provides more than half the fuel refined in Washington state refineries, meaning B.C. can’t simply acquire supply from south of the border, he said.
The Lower Mainland goes through about 150,000 barrels of fuel per day, according to McTeague, and the region usually maintains a supply to cover four to five days.
The B.C. government issued an emergency order Friday limiting consumers in storm-stricken parts of the province to 30 litres of gasoline in a single fill-up, as it seeks to conserve fuel supplies for essential services.
The order is meant to expire in 10 days, but McTeague suggested it could last “a lot longer” than that, given the need for refineries to catch up once the pipeline is back online.
“I think it’s going to last a lot longer, and I think we’re probably going into the second week of December before we actually can get ourselves clear to getting supplies back to what one considered normal,” he said.
While Friday’s order was meant to promote fuel conservation, it had the opposite effect on some consumers.
Long lineups formed at a number of gas stations on the south coast, and photos circulated on social media of people filling up Jerry cans of fuel.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth defended the order Saturday, suggesting hoarders were the exception rather than the rule.
“When I made the announcement, I said I expect there will people who will not want to respect that. I also know this: The overwhelming majority of British Columbians will do the right thing and respect that 30-litre limit,” Farnworth said.
“Is it a challenge? Yes. Is it inconvenient? Of course it is. But it’s also going to get us through this critical period.”
Most drivers Global News spoke with on Saturday said they understood the reasoning behind the order and were prepared to follow the rules.
But McTeague argued the order may have had the opposite effect of what was intended.
“I’m not sure the government needed to come out to make that statement, and the statement may have had the unintended effect of increasing the public’s appetite to take advantage of the situation before it really got bad,” he said.
Farnworth said the province was in discussion with U.S. fuel companies about barging in additional gasoline, and had told rail carriers that fuel supply was a top priority when rail links are re-established.
McTeague said bringing fuel in by sea will help, but is a slow process. He said the Lower Mainland also lacks the capacity to store that fuel once it arrives.
In the meantime, he said prices are actually expected to drop a few cents on Sunday, but could spike by as much as 10 or 15 cents by mid-week.