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Parkland Fuel plans refinery maintenance

The refinery that is the sole local supplier of motor fuel in the B.C. Lower Mainland is being scheduled for an eight-week maintenance shutdown early next year but owner Parkland Fuel Corp. says it is taking measures to keep prices at the pump in check.

The 55,000-barrel-per-day Burnaby refinery is putting fuel in storage to be drawn upon during the outage but that won’t be enough to last for the entire duration, said Dirk Lever, vice-president for refining, on a conference call to discuss Parkland’s third-quarter results last week.

“We have a fair amount of planning to do dealing with other refineries in order to source supply as we’re down,” he said.

“More material to pump prices on the West Coast are unplanned outages, rather than planned outages. So the fact this is a planned outage and has been orchestrated ahead of time, it should not have a material impact at the pump.”

Gasoline and diesel prices have been a hot topic in British Columbia.

A public inquiry concluded in August that there’s an unexplained difference of 13 cents per litre between Metro Vancouver and Seattle that is costing drivers on the Canadian side of the border nearly $500 million a year.

But it also found no evidence of collusion among the companies – including Parkland – that supply and market fuel.

Premier John Horgan called the public inquiry last May as gasoline prices reached a record-breaking $1.70 per litre in the Vancouver region.

Parkland’s down time shouldn’t result in higher prices because there has been sufficient preparation time, said market watcher Michael Ervin, senior vice-president with consulting firm Kent Group, on Tuesday.

He said prices are generally higher in the Vancouver area because of supply and demand.

B.C.’s other fuel refinery, the 12,000-bpd facility in Prince George, was recently sold by Husky Energy Inc. to Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd.

Shares in Calgary-based Parkland, Canada’s largest independent fuel marketer, jumped by nearly five per cent early Tuesday after it increased its 2019 guidance on the back of third-quarter adjusted earnings that beat analyst expectations.

“Our business is performing well and the increase reflects our strong third quarter and confidence for Q4,” said CEO Bob Espey on the conference call.

The company, which sells gasoline and diesel under brands including Fas Gas, Chevron, Esso, Ultramar and Pioneer, and operates On The Run convenience stores in Canada, said it now expects its adjusted earnings in 2019 before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization will be $1.24 billion, up $75 million from the previous forecast.

During the quarter, Parkland began the rollout of its national Journie Rewards customer loyalty program in partnership with CIBC in Canada and bought Florida-based fuel marketer Tropic Oil.

The company reported third-quarter net earnings of $26 million, down from $49 million in the year-earlier period, with the slip mainly attributed to an increase in interest on long-term debt relating to its purchase early this year of Caribbean fuel retailer Sol.

It reported adjusted EBITDA of $302 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, up from $200 million in the same period of 2018, as revenue jumped to $4.6 billion from $3.8 billion.


Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is open to proposals from the private sector for a refinery in British Columbia, as a public inquiry into the province’s soaring gas prices reviews possible solutions.

The prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas that would make life more affordable for Canadians.

“We’re always open to seeing what the private sector proposes, what business cases are out there. We believe in getting things done the right way and we’re going to work with people to find solutions to make sure that people can afford their weekly bills,” Trudeau said.

He made the comments in Victoria this month following a joint announcement with Premier John Horgan of $79 million to support 118 new transit buses across the province.

The funding will also allow for 10 long-range electric buses that would provide greener transportation options in Greater Victoria.

Horgan called the gas price inquiry in May when prices at the pump reached $1.70 on the Lower Mainland, saying the public deserved answers about why prices are so much more expensive and variable than in other jurisdictions.

Horgan said that while the province wants a transition away from fossil fuel dependence, that transition should be aided by more refined product to give B.C. drivers relief.

The province believes that, like raw logs, there’s an economic opportunity lost when oil and gas goes to market before value is added, even as the province moves toward cleaner energies, he said.

Oral hearings are ongoing in the public inquiry into gas prices and the three-member panel chaired by the David Morton, CEO of the B.C. Utilities Commission, is set to release a final report and recommendations Aug. 30.

Henry Kahwaty, an economist hired by Parkland Fuels, which owns and operates one of the province’s only refineries in Burnaby, told the panel on Wednesday that there have been several business cases circulating for additional refineries in the province.

But Kahwaty said the business cases put forward aren’t based on meeting local demand, even if some of the product would undoubtedly end up in B.C.

“It’s serving Asian markets,” Kahwaty said.

Dozens of protesters rallied outside a Liberal fundraiser Thursday night, carrying signs saying “declare a climate health emergency,” and “get oil out of our soil.”

Some held up giant, inflatable orcas mounted on sticks, a reference to the endangered species threatened by the increased tanker traffic that would come with the pipeline’s expansion.

They called for a stronger federal climate action plan and criticized Trudeau for his government’s approval and purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Trudeau told reporters that selling Canadian oil to American markets at a discount won’t help the environment but redirecting some of the profits from the expansion will.

During the fundraiser’s “armchair discussion,” Trudeau said we’re in a time where populism and social media are amplifying voices on the peripheries and the Liberal party is committed to the “hard work,” of finding what can be complicated solutions.

“Nobody has a sign that says ‘Make a decent compromise,’ ‘Find a reasonable way forward,’ ‘Get that right balance.’ ”

Although, he said he was flattered to hear the same orcas were at Elizabeth May’s wedding in April.

 


An Alberta refinery could help with squeezed gas supply in B.C.: Premier Horgan

British Columbia Premier John Horgan says Alberta may be the best place to boost refining capacity to increase a supply of fuel to the province.

The price of gasoline has been rising in B.C. for the last month and the cost for a litre of gas in Metro Vancouver has been hovering around $1.70.

Horgan says part of the problem is there’s too much demand and not enough supply, but adds that a 30-cent rise in gas prices in the last three months appears to be a result of gouging by oil companies.

The premier says most refineries are close to the source of the product and because Alberta has more expertise, that may be the better location for new refining capacity.

In 2014, B.C. newspaper mogul David Black had proposed a $13-billion oil refinery on B.C.’s northern coast, and Horgan says he encourages Black to bring the plan forward to go through the regulatory and environmental process.

Metro Vancouver drivers pay over 50 cents a litre in taxes to the federal and provincial governments and for carbon and transit taxes.