B.C. oil refinery backers move ahead

David Black: business case for B.C. refinery sound

Backers of a third large oil refinery proposal for British Columbia’s North Coast made some high-profile appointments Wednesday by naming former Assembly of First Nations national chiefs Shawn Atleo and Ovide Mercredi as advisors to their team.

Pacific Future Energy, proposing what it calls the world’s greenest refinery near Prince Rupert, announced the appointments on Dec. 17 at a Vancouver Board of Trade event hosted by Stockwell Day, the former Conservative trade minister who has been the group’s public face since August.

Pacific Future’s proposal is similar to Kitimat Clean, a refinery bid launched in 2012 by David Black, chairman of Black Press. Both would be constructed from modules manufactured offshore to produce diesel, gasoline and other fuels for sale, avoiding the transport of heavy oil by tankers to reach export markets.

The third proposal is called Eagle Spirit Energy, headed by aboriginal author and lawyer Calvin Helin with financial backing from the Aquilini Group, the Vancouver family business that owns the Vancouver Canucks and extensive real estate and farm holdings.

Eagle Spirit is proposing a pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to an upgrader that would produce synthetic crude oil for export by tankers, likely from the Prince Rupert area.

Black announced last week that engineering firm Hatch Ltd. has completed a design and feasibility study for a refinery at an estimated cost of $22 billion, making it one of the 10 biggest in the world.

He added in an interview he sees obvious similarities with the Pacific Future proposal, which describes new technology and carbon capture to reduce its environmental impact.

Kitimat Clean proposes a new refining process that avoids production of petroleum coke, a coal-like byproduct of conventional heavy oil refining that is used in steel making.

Black said the entry of Pacific Future, headed by an executive of Mexican conglomerate Grupo Salinas, shows the business case for a B.C. refinery is sound and there is capacity for more than one plant.

All proposals for B.C. North Coast refining await the fate of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, which received a federal environmental certificate this year and awaits approval by the federal cabinet.

All proposals also face opposition to pipeline and tanker transport of heavy oil. Pacific Future has appointed Atleo as a senior advisor for partnerships months after Premier Christy Clark appointed him as an advisor for dialogue between First Nations, government and industry.

Black said his next steps include negotiating “acceptable compensation” for his project with the Kitselas and Haisla First Nations for use of their traditional territory.

 

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