Grim-faced Nunavut ministers admit the obvious
Okalik and Kattuk confirm what everyone already knows: Nunavut’s gasoline sucks
A grim-faced Paul Okalik and an equally grim-faced Peter Kattuk confirmed last week what many in Nunavut already suspect: “the gasoline is causing engine damage.”
For the first time, Premier Okalik and Kattuk, minister of public works, admitted Nunavut has “bad gas.”
A report from the Alberta Research Council concludes gasoline from the Baffin and Kivalliq regions produces potentially harmful engine deposits. Even treatment with a deposit-control agent didn’t appear to have much impact on reducing the gummy deposits.
The research council, Kattuk said, was working on finding a way to purify the remaining gasoline supplies — an estimated 10 million litres of gas outside of Iqaluit.
“Arriving at these answers has been a frustrating experience for everyone involved. Although we now have some answers, we realize that this will be a detailed process with no quick solutions,” Kattuk said.
At the beginning of this week, the Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL), which holds the contract for the purchase and delivery of the gas, still hadn’t seen the Alberta Research Council report.
“I’m at a bit of a disadvantage,” said NTCL marketing manager Kirk Vander Ploeg.
Vander Ploeg said he was “very concerned” about the situation.
However, he said the gas was tested when it was loaded and discharged to see if it met specifications. He said it met the specifications. A deposit-causing contaminant wasn’t on the list of things that were to be looked for.
NTCL has held the lucrative eastern Arctic fuel resupply contract since 1996. When it was first awarded, it was estimated to be worth about $30 million a year in cash-flow to the company.
Kattuk and Okalik said the GN never suspected there could be anything wrong with the gasoline that NTCL purchased and shipped to the Baffin and Kivalliq regions.
But a deposit-control additive that’s required in all Canada-refined gas was apparently lacking this year’s gas supply. This additive helps keep engines running free of deposits.
NTCL’s current contract expires this fall. The government of Nunavut has issued a request for proposals seeking a shipper and a supplier for fuel in the Baffin and Kivalliq regions.
This time around, transportation and purchase components of the contracts will be awarded separately.
The new contract will require certification that the gasoline meets Canadian- and Nunavut-specific standards. The contractor will have to list the names and amounts of all additives.
The government is now specifying that the new gasoline must be purchased in Canada. The sub-standard batch shipped to the Baffin and Kivalliq regions last year is believed to have been purchased from New York City.
“We will be doing something to make sure that the gas delivered to the communities will be adequate and do some testing to make sure that the communities are not getting bad gas before it is put into the tank farms,” Kattuk said.
“We do not want to experience it again in the future. We don’t want to experience having bad gas again for the communities.”
In 1999, when Gjoa Haven experienced similar problems with its gas, the municipality picked up the tab to fly in $37,000 worth of gas at the beginning of the boating season — but this scenario never came up as a possible solution to the present bad gas problem.
Kattuk cautioned that anyone going out on the land should watch out.
“Nunavummiut should exercise particular caution and keep safety in mind when travelling on the land and ice. Spring weather is warmer, boats are being put in the water and people are travelling further to hunt. I urge everyone to contact local wildlife officers for more information on safety,” Kattuk said.