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Increased demand, refinery shutdown reduces diesel fuel supply in parts of N.D.

FARGO -- Diesel fuel supplies have tightened in central and western North Dakota as farmers take to their fields, and the Tesoro refinery in Mandan is shut down for maintenance and upgrades.

FARGO -- Diesel fuel supplies have tightened in central and western North Dakota as farmers take to their fields, and the Tesoro refinery in Mandan is shut down for maintenance and upgrades.

The scarce supplies have prompted some fuel dealers to truck in diesel fuel from Fargo and Grand Forks, while others to ship fuel by rail from Canada, said Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association.

"We've been monitoring the situation for the past three weeks now," he said. "We know this is a critical period."

No action has been needed so far to ensure supplies, such as granting waivers to allow petroleum truckers to be on the road longer to deliver shipments, Rud said.

"There's definitely concern out there," he said. "The western part of the state especially is feeling the pinch right now."

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Besides strong seasonal demand, a major reason for the scarcity is the routine shutdown of the Tesoro refinery in Mandan, Rud said.

Ron Day, the Tesoro plant's environmental health and safety manager, said the plant shut down Thursday and will resume operations in mid-May.

Crews are installing upgrades to allow all of the refinery's diesel production to meet low-sulfur standards for off-road vehicles that take effect next year.

The low-sulfur restriction already applies to on-road vehicles, such as semis, Day said.

Fuel dealers under contract with Tesoro are getting their supplies, he said, but dealers without contracts are not guaranteed delivery during the shutdown.

Tesoro shuts down the refinery every six years for safety inspections and upgrades. Over the past 18 months, the company has invested $85 million to improve the plant, Day said.

Kent Satrang, chief executive officer of Petro Serve USA in Moorhead, said diesel supplies in Fargo-Moorhead remain adequate.

Fargo-Moorhead is supplied by three refineries, including Tesoro in Mandan, Satrang said. "I'm sure we'll get through it," he said.

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The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are owned by Forum Communications Co.

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