Alberta move to cut fuel shipments to B.C. has ‘downsides,’ refiners say

CALGARY — A spokesman for refiners in Western Canada says any move by the Alberta government to shut off the flow of refined fuel to British Columbia might increase prices for consumers there but it would also negatively affect Alberta’s four refineries.

Brian Ahearn, regional vice-president for the Canadian Fuels Association, says about 25 per cent of the gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products produced at the Edmonton-area refineries goes to B.C.

He says the loss of that market would have “downsides,” forcing refiners to find alternative markets, accept lower prices or, in a “worse-worse case scenario,” run their operations at less than optimum capacity.

Alberta introduced Bill 12 Monday, legislation that allows the energy minister to tell truckers, pipeline companies and rail operators how much of what products can be shipped when and where.

As an example, the province says it could restrict shipments on the Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to the Vancouver area to diluted bitumen, thus halting the refined products it carries.

Ahearn says the pipeline carries about 45,000 to 50,000 barrels per day of refined products. The rest of the 80,000 to 100,000 barrels per day is sent by train or truck from Alberta to B.C.

“Directionally, we are supportive of the government’s overall objective and the reason is we are a supporter of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion,” he said.

“(But) if there’s curtailment all the way to the point of discontinuing that flow of product, that disruption, that utilization taken away from the refineries would have a pretty negative affect on the refineries. That’s one of the downsides we’ve been making sure the government knows about and to fully assess before they take any further steps.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan has been fighting the expansion, even though the federal government approved the $7.4-billion project in November 2016.

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