Winnipeg gas stations without gas? Expert says ‘it’s not a crisis’

Some Winnipeggers may be struggling to top up their vehicles’ fuel in recent days.

On the heels of Imperial Oil decommissioning a section of pipeline for preventative maintenance, at least a handful of gas stations across Winnipeg are reporting to be out of fuel, or limiting consumption.

Robert Parsons, sessional instructor in the department of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba in the Asper School of Business, said this isn’t cause for panic.

“It’s not a crisis,” he said. “It’s a manageable inconvenience, I think that’s the key thing.”

“We know that they’ll be repairing this pipeline, which is good; we also know that it will take no longer than about three months. That may not be good, but we know roughly how long it’s going to take therefore that’s not necessarily bad,” he said.

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Parsons said gas will be available at the pumps once again, and noted that it’s not abnormal for stations to get low on fuel.

“If you’re looking at individual stations… some people are kind of running out of gas, but when is their normal cycle for refill? That takes a little bit of time,” he said, explaining stations get a regular distribution of fuel.

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“It’s not there constantly.”

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He said that stations being low on fuel, or even dry, isn’t surprising following Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew’s statements that there was about a week’s worth of gasoline in Winnipeg terminals as of March 18.

Parsons added that while supply trucks face increased demand to transport fuel, manpower is thin, which also tacks onto the time it takes to fuel up a station.

In an emailed statement to Global News, Craig Gilpin, CEO of Red River Co-Op said, “our supplier of fuel, Federated Cooperative Ltd., has been actively working out a supply plan. We are confident the plan will see Red River Co-op remain with fuel supply. That said, this is an evolving situation.”

“It’s just like in the case of Covid, we had to wait for the vaccines. After a while, they caught up. In this case, we have to wait for the fuel deliveries a little bit. But like keep calm, carry on,” Parsons said.

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However, the expert said maybe don’t carry on as normal for now, and plan ahead.

“Think about, ‘How much driving do I really need to do?’” he said, adding — where possible — it will help supply and demand to work from home, take a bus, plan out groceries to limit going shopping, amongst other measures.

Parsons noted it’s also important to refrain from stockpiling diesel and gas for not just supply, but safety.

“A real danger with this is if we have people going and hoarding gasoline, and they stuff it in a corner and forget about it then a fire starts, or they dump it down a drain… those are all serious problems,” he said.

There may also be a lift in price at the pump he said in the midst of the interruption to the fuel supply chain.

“My expectation is (it) will not be big, will not be that significant,” Parsons said.

In the long-term, he said there could be potential to change ethanol and gasoline blending standards to allow more ethanol in fuel to stretch supply.

Currently, “Manitoba’s Ethanol Mandate requires fuel suppliers in Manitoba to blend at least 10 per cent of ethanol in their gasoline,” according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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Ethanol is also cheaper than gasoline, Parsons said.

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