Western Canadian refineries return to operation

Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:48pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A gasoline shortage in Western Canada looked set to ease on Monday as two Alberta refineries made progress returning to service after a severe storm forced them to shut down more than a week ago.

Petro-Canada said its 135,000 barrel a day Edmonton refinery returned to service after it repaired damage to its major gasoline production unit on the weekend.

The plant and Imperial Oil Ltd's 187,000 barrel a day Strathcona refinery were both knocked off line due to power outages in the storm, which hit Alberta's capital city late on July 18.

It will take days before the unit at the Petro-Canada refinery, called a catalytic cracker, is pumping out fuel at capacity rates. Some of the company's retail outlets have run dry in recent days.

"It takes time to return the unit back to safe service because it's a systematic and orderly approach that they take. But it is back into service and is producing product," spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said.

To make up for lost supply, the company has been shipping fuel into Alberta, largely by rail from its Montreal refinery, Seetal said. It has also been rationing gasoline shipments to its outlets and other customers.

Meanwhile, Imperial's Strathcona plant has returned to full service after a ramp-up process that took several days, company spokesman Jon Harding said.

With lightning, hail and winds topping 100 km (62 miles) per hour, the storm downed hundreds of trees, damaged buildings and left thousands of residents without electricity in the Edmonton area.

The other refinery in the region, Royal Dutch Shell's 98,000 barrel a day Scotford plant, was said to have not suffered a power outage.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson)