Fears of a looming propane crisis caused by rail blockades have been partly alleviated by U.S. supplies, unseasonably warm weather and selective deliveries, says the head of Superior Propane.
But unless freight-train service resumes in Eastern Canada, rationing and shortages of the home-heating fuel are likely, said Greg McCamus, president of Superior Propane, whose main Ontario depot in Sarnia is supplied by trains and a pipeline.
Superior has brought in trucks from Western Canada and moved propane to Atlantic Canada by train from the United States, Mr. McCamus said. Customers that operate barbecue refilling stations are getting limited deliveries, in order to allow Superior to prioritize residents, hospitals and nursing homes.
“We’ve also been a bit fortunate that the weather in Ontario has been a bit warmer than normal for this time of year. So that’s all helping us to keep the supply moving.”
Mr. McCamus said the measures have helped ensure Superior can maintain a supply that would last about a week to 10 days. Normally, there is about two weeks’ supply. He said it is hard to pin down a date by which the supplies will run out, given the new steps the company has taken, and the variables of weather and demand.
“We hope that if the rail lines start running again, we can move through it without that kind of a crisis happening. But there is no question it’s an issue for the industry. And if we don’t get a resolution, it’s going to get [worse]," he said by phone.
The blockades are in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory in northern British Columbia. The $6-billion project by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. would pipe natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the coast for export.
The protests have raised concerns about shortages of critical supplies of everything from propane to water-treatment chemicals, and put pressure on the federal government to find a solution to limit economic damage.
Canadian National Railway Co., whose line east of Toronto has been blocked for two weeks, has halted freight service on its eastern Canadian network. Passenger rail company Via Rail, which leases track space from CN, has suspended most of its trains.
The blockades have also stopped or slowed rail service at Canada’s four main ports, Vancouver, Prince Rupert, B.C., Montreal and Halifax, forcing ships to idle at anchor or divert to U.S. destinations.
In Halifax and Montreal, off-loaded containers of consumer goods and industrial components are stacked on the docks, with no CN trains to take them away to markets outside the province. “The CN network blockade greatly complicates the logistics of transporting goods or completely blocks the movement of goods for CN users,” said Mélanie Nadeau, a spokeswoman for the Port of Montreal.
An executive with German container ship owner Hapag-Lloyd AG said the company is considering skipping calls at Halifax, but has been less affected at Vancouver and Montreal, where it uses Canadian Pacific Railway trains.
In an open letter to Mr. Trudeau, CP chief executive officer Keith Creel called on the Prime Minister to hold talks with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Mr. Creel said the railway is “severely impacted” by the disputes, including a Thursday protest on a CP line near Chase, B.C., that stopped trains headed to the Port of Vancouver and a 12-day blockade south of Montreal that has cut off U.S. access.