Gas prices rise sharply in Edmonton

Expert cites refinery problem, wildfires for increase

 Saturday, Jun 04, 2016 06:00 am  — By: Doug Neuman 

 Blue truck PetroCan Station

A spike in prices at the gas pump across the Edmonton region and beyond is being attributed to a mechanical problem at the Suncor refinery in Edmonton. 

Roger McKnight, the chief petroleum analyst with En-Pro International, said the issue arose May 23 but wasn’t disclosed until much more recently. 

“They didn’t really let it be released until a couple days ago as to what the problem is,” he said. “That resulted in an immediate jump at the pumps because of a potential supply situation.” 

He said there was a problem with the coker at the refinery, which is a crucial part of the distillation and refining process. 

In statements to media Suncor has not indicated when the issue may be resolved, but McKnight said it may not be as quick as most people would like. 

“When that will get fixed is not really known,” he said. “A coker is a crucial part of the distillation process at a refinery, and it’s not something you can just buy off the shelf at Walmart.” 

And in the meantime, consumers are going to take a hit to the pocketbook. 

“The situation right now is not very comfortable for consumers,” McKnight said. “I don’t see any end in sight on these price increases until Suncor comes clean and says when this is going to get fixed.” 

He noted not all retailers are going to be affected in the same way, but the loss of the 129,000 barrel-per-day refining capacity in Edmonton – some 30 per cent of the total in the province – will keep prices high for the foreseeable future. 

The other factor in the increasing prices, McKnight said, is the wildfire situation in the Fort McMurray area. Less supply in that case is resulting in prices climbing up. 

“You’ve got a double whammy.” 

The issue with the refinery has been blamed for fuel shortages at Petro Canada stations across Western Canada, including some in Edmonton. 

The two Petro Canada stations in St. Albert were still selling fuel Friday morning, with regular unleaded selling for 106.9 cents per litre, but at a lower-cost retailer down the road, dozens of vehicles were lined up for the 90.9 cents-per-litre fuel at Costco. 

James Fekete just shrugged when asked about the fuel price increases. 

“I try not to worry about it because there’s not much I can do. Drive less, I guess,” he said. “I’m not about to cancel my vacation or anything.” 

Mark Patrick, on the other hand, was filling up his truck, dirt bike and several jerry cans with fuel, saying he tries to take the time to fill everything up if he thinks the prices are going to jump.

 “A couple of bucks is a couple of bucks,” he said. 

But not everyone was even aware of the recent jump and the issues at the Suncor refinery. Cynthia Morrison said she figured the prices were just rising because it’s summertime. 

“Who can figure out why prices go up or down? They’ve got me one way or the other,” she said.