WSJ – Vancouver Firm Eyes British Columbia Refinery

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Pacific Future Energy Raised Initial Funding for Project, Which Is at Pre-Feasibility Stage

Vancouver-based Pacific Future Energy Corp. Tuesday said it is in the early stages of planning a multibillion-dollar oil refinery on Canada’s west coast.

The company, formed in January, said the proposed refinery would process heavy oil from landlocked Alberta at an as-yet-undetermined site on the British Columbia coast, and export refined products to overseas markets.

Pacific Future has raised the initial funding for the project, which is at the pre-feasibility stage, Executive Chairman Samer Salameh said in an interview, though he acknowledged the project is years away from approval and completion. The company estimates it will take between seven and nine years and 10 billion Canadian dollars ($9.17 billion) to reach the first stage of processing at the proposed refinery.

Mr. Salameh declined to specify the cost of the initial stage, but said “if you look it as a percentage of the whole project, it’s not significant.” Funding for the pre-feasibility stage is coming from Mr. Salameh, an executive with Mexico’s Grupo Salinas, and a group that includes private Canadian investors, he said.

The refinery would convert heavy oil, or bitumen, into gasoline, diesel, kerosene and other distillates. Pacific Future expects to build it in modules which would eventually process a total of 1 million barrels a day.

The plan comes as the Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to decide whether or not to approve Enbridge Inc. ENB -0.28% ‘s Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would carry Alberta oil to the Pacific. The Canadian government has said finding new export markets for Canada’s energy products is crucial to its economic future. Environmental and aboriginal groups, however, oppose Northern Gateway in part due to concerns about potential oil spills.

Global energy giants are also eyeing sites on Canada’s Pacific coast for liquefied natural gas plants that would serve energy-hungry Asian market.

The pre-feasibility stage for the Future Energy project is expected to take up to 15 months, and involves studying the economic, social and environmental aspects of the project and deciding on a location. Talks with aboriginal groups, or First Nations, in the area have just begun, Mr. Salameh said. Government reviews and construction would take several more years.

Mr. Salameh said an initial design for what the company calls “the world’s greenest refinery” is already in place, saying it incorporates technologies that help minimize emissions.

“While we believe it’s in Canada’s national strategic interest to gain access to international markets for Alberta’s oil, especially the fast growing Asia market, the company believes it shouldn’t be done at the sacrifice of B.C.’s coast or broader environment and must be done in full partnership with First Nations,” the company said in a statement.

Write to Judy McKinnon at judy.mckinnon@wsj.com

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