Propane shortage feared if blocked rail lines persist

People stand near the train train tracks on day 8 of the train blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., on Thursday Feb. 13, 2020, in support of Wet'suwet'en's blockade of a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

The drop in temperature that hit most regions of Quebec on Friday increased Association québécoise du propane (AQP) concerns about the railway line blockages in eastern Canada.

On Thursday, the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) announced the gradual cessation of freight train traffic in eastern Canada due to several days of Indigenous protests near the tracks. This could lead to a new gas shortage, according to the Association québécoise du propane (AQP). The organization recognizes that the Quebec winter has been mild so far, but reminded that a cold spell could change the scenario quickly.

The AQP said that any persistent blockage of routes would only exacerbate problems linked to renewed pressure from demand. It added that rail transportation is extremely important for the many Quebecers who use propane daily for their homes, businesses, farms and fleets of vehicles. Punctual delivery is of the utmost importance to ensure the continuation of essential activities requiring propane, it added.

Last November, more than 3,000 CN rail workers who were members of the Teamsters union went on strike for a week. The interruption in train traffic caused a shortage of propane and prompted angry farmers to organize large demonstrations. AQP general manager Raymond Gouron mentioned last Tuesday that a repetition of the crisis could occur if the blockage of the rail network were to continue.

For its part, Superior Propane, a major supplier in the country, anticipates "critical shortages" of supply in the main markets.

"Due to the current inability to move the propane cars to supply our branches in the centre and east of the country, we anticipate that in the coming days we will begin to experience supply shortages in many parts of the country," said Greg McCamus, president of Superior Propane.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2020.