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GTA gas shortage looms after pipeline ordered to reduce output

Last Updated Oct 4, 2016 at 7:16 pm EDT

Forget about watching what you’re paying at the pump; you could soon be on the lookout for a place to pump.

Gas stations from Hamilton to Montreal are bracing for a fuel shortage after the Trans Northern Pipeline was ordered to reduce its output of gas by ten per cent. The pipeline is the major fuel distributor for the region, including both Pearson and Trudeau international airports.

“You’re going to see a lot of disruption. Yellow tape on gas pumps of every brand,” said Gasbuddy.com’s Dan McTeague.

“Ten per cent of the available gasoline within the GTA, all the way out to Hamilton, is affected. All gas stations have been notified in the past 24 hours that they are on allocation, industry code word for expect supply restriction. So rather than expecting a tank full of gasoline at certain stations refilled every three or four days, that might be pushed back two days,” he adds.

Expect rotation closures and shortages at pumps.

The National Energy Board (NEB) ordered the restriction after several years of safety concerns and incidents.

“The reason that their pressure has been reduced through an NEB safety order is that the company has continuing over-pressure incidents, however minor. What we are not seeing from the company is we are not seeing them address this issue. They have had 11 over-pressure incidents since 2010,” the NEB’s Darin Barker tells CityNews.

“What we are seeing are transient waves when the pipeline is being operated,” Barker explains. “It’s very similar to when you turn the tap on at home and you shut it off – there’s that slight vibration. That’s called a transient wave and we’ve recorded or we’ve seen them record eleven of those incidents over the past six years.”

He adds that there have been no recorded leaks since 2010 – when the NEB ordered the company to reduce its pressure by 30 per cent. “Had it not been addressed, it could have (resulted in leaks).”

“The NEB, I believe, it’s erred on the side of the environment and on the side of public safety,” McTeague says. “There have been issues in the past and it’s really up to the carrier to address those.”

The Richmond Hill-based company would only comment through its public relations firm. In a statement, an unnamed Trans Northern spokesperson said:

We have initiated the pressure restrictions as identified by the National Energy Board (NEB) and appointed an independent third party to track and report on our progress. We continue to carefully review the other NEB conditions and our existing operating protocols to develop our action plan and assess the impact including the implications on volume. We are working closely with the NEB to ensure we meet all regulatory requirements.”

Barker says the changes need to be addressed immediately. “The bottom line is companies have to manage their pipelines appropriately and if there’s an ongoing issue that could impact safety, they need to address it right away.”

The 918 km pipeline carries fuel products from Nanticoke to Toronto and from Montreal to Oakville. About 172,900 barrels of refined product travel through the line every day.