A British Columbia-based consortium is proposing a $10-billion refinery for Canada’s West Coast, the second such plan aimed at winning support for processing and exporting petroleum products manufactured from the oil sands.
A group called Pacific Future Energy said it wants to build a massive plant in the Prince Rupert, B.C., area that could eventually process one million barrels a day, constructed in 200,000 barrel-a-day modules.
The aim is to develop a “near-net-zero” bitumen refinery using an environmentally friendly design powered by natural gas and renewables and employing carbon-capture technology. The group said it will concentrate on seeking support and partnership from First Nations.
The backers say it will create an estimated 3,000 permanent jobs.
The proposal comes days before an expected federal approval of Enbridge Inc.’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline to Kitimat, B.C., from Alberta. The contentious project faces staunch opposition from aboriginal groups in British Columbia as well as environmentalists. Some First Nations have promised legal action aimed at stopping the project, should it be approved.
Pacific Future Energy’s idea is the second West Coast refinery proposal following a $26-billion plan floated by newspaper publisher David Black. Last year, Mr. Black said he was seeking billions of dollars in loan guarantees from Ottawa as a way to advance the project, which would be located in Kitimat, the terminus of Northern Gateway.
Both refinery proposals seek to address fear among B.C. residents that a spill of raw bitumen from a tanker in coastal waters could cause severe damage to the environment that would last for years. A spill of products such as gasoline or diesel would be much easier to clean up, they say.
However, each faces an uphill battle moving forward, given the high costs of labour and materials, lack of experience building major energy projects, uncertain markets for refined products versus raw bitumen, major financing requirements and, so far, little buy-in from the oil patch.
“Canada needs to diversify its markets for oil. And the biggest market for oil is Asia. Other proposals exist but Pacific Future Energy is putting an environmentally responsible option on the table,” the group said in a statement. “Other options restrict growth or ship dangerous bitumen along our coast – a national treasure. Pacific Future Energy’s proposal ensures that the bitumen will be refined using state-of-the-art technology that complies with Canada’s stringent environmental assessment and air quality regulations.”
Pacific Futures is led by Chairman Samer Salameh, who manages telecom and business development for Grupo Salinas, a multibillion-dollar Mexican conglomerate. Other members of the management group include CEO Robert Delamar, who has worked in the technology and venture capital sectors; Jamie Carroll, a government and regulatory affairs specialist; and Vice-President of Indigenous Partnership Jeffrey Copenace, who worked as deputy chief of staff to former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo.
Another notable participant is Vice-President Communications and Research Mark Marissen, a longtime Liberal party strategist and public consultation specialist who is also ex-husband of B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
The group said it had secured funding international partners, but did not name them. It said it had begun a pre-feasibility study as well as consultations with First Nations communities.