There are plenty of reasons for drivers to get cranky with Mother Nature. This week, you can add “trouble fuelling up” to the list.
Dozens of gas stations across the Greater Toronto Area ran into supply issues this week — including in some cases being completely sold out — thanks to the wintry conditions on area roads.
Getting into and out of fuel storage depots, as well as the slippery, snowy road conditions around stations in tightly packed urban areas, is especially hazardous when you’re driving a tanker filled with gasoline, said Suncor spokesperson Nicole Fisher.
“We always want to make sure our drivers are safe, and because of this weather, they wouldn’t have been,” said Fisher, who wasn’t able to provide an estimate of how many of Suncor’s PetroCanada stations were affected. “There wasn’t a shortage of gasoline. This was about distribution.”
While deliveries started back up again Wednesday, not every station will be filled up instantly, Fisher added.
It’s been five years since the GTA has seen a similarly widespread rash of empty pumps, said former Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who’s now a fuel analyst at GasBuddy.com
“This doesn’t happen too often, but it happens. The last time it was this big was probably 2014,” said McTeague, who estimated roughly 140 stations across the GTA were affected. The worst-hit ones were stations in Toronto itself, McTeague said.
“Usually, it’s areas to the east and west of Toronto which get hardest hit when there’s weather like this, but this time, it was worst downtown,” said McTeague.
Busy stations usually get deliveries every two or three days, McTeague said.
The supply troubles were exacerbated by a run on gasoline as drivers tried to take advantage of pump prices which dropped to an average of 98.9 cents per litre for regular gas, the lowest the GTA has seen since October 2016, McTeague said.
Still, the situation could have been more dire.
“It would have been a lot worse if the depots or refineries had run out of gasoline, but that’s not what happened here,” said McTeague. The Toronto area is supplied by a handful of major fuel terminals, including one in Oakville and one near Keele St. and Finch Ave.
Those terminals typically have enough gasoline on-hand to survive for a while without being restocked by refineries.
“It would be a few days before they’d run out, if it came to that,” McTeague said.
It isn’t just gasoline deliveries which have been disrupted by the frigid, snowy weather across much of eastern North America. In storm-struck Michigan, auto plants and other big energy users Michigan have shut down or limited operations due to a natural gas shortage caused by a fire and frigid weather.
Eighteen factories and other facilities run by General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler were affected Thursday. It’s not clear when they’ll resume normal operations.
The fire hit a Consumers Energy natural gas compressor station north of Detroit on Wednesday as record-cold temperatures swept over the region.
Elsewhere, beer delivery trucks in Milwaukee were pulled off the roads because distributors worried that the brews would freeze. In Chicago, train tracks were being deliberately set on fire by railroad crews, to avoid tracks from freezing and keep trains running.
With files from The Associated Press
Josh Rubin is a Toronto-based business reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @starbeer