The Dubose area north of Kitimat is the site for two proposed oil refineries.

First Nation takes wait and see approach to northwest B.C. refinery plans

Competing refinery proposals would locate developments within Kitselas traditional territory

A recent proposal for a project to ship refined petroleum products off the North Coast has come out ahead of the game compared to others, says a First Nations leader whose traditional territory takes in the proposed site.

“They seem to have it way more together,” said Kitselas chief councillor Joe Bevan, in comparing the Pacific Future Energy refinery project to previous proposals he’s seen cross his table such as the Kitimat Clean refinery plan and the Enbridge Northern Gateway project which ship unrefined crude offshore.

Like the Kitimat Clean proposed refinery, Pacific Future Energy would be a massive facility to process tar sands bitumen into a refined product and shipped by tanker to Asia from a terminal in Kitimat in what a company press release says would be small tankers.

Both have tagged the provincial Crown land Dubose Flats area between Kitimat and Terrace, which is within Kitselas First Nation traditional territory, as a location.

Each would then have a pipeline network to pump final products to export terminals with the one for Pacific Future being potentially located on Portland Inlet.

And like the Kitimat Clean proposal, Pacific Future Energy plans to forgo both pipeline and traditional petroleum rail transport by moving a very dense form of undiluted bitumen that has the “consistency similar to peanut butter” and thus would be less likely to spread were an accident to happen en route, according to a Pacific Future Energy release.

Pacific Future Energy, whose board of directors includes former federal international trade minister Stockwell Day, is planning a refinery which would produce up to 160,000 barrels a day of diesel, 40,000 barrels a day of gasoline, 13,000 a day of kerosene, and 10,000 a day of liquefied petroleum gas or propane. Butane would also be produced.

The company says it would need 3,500 people for construction and 1,000 for operations.

Pacific Future says the construction could potentially begin in 2018 with a 2021 production start date. It’s valued at approximately $15 billion.

Billed as a green, the oil refinery would also be powered by waste wood generation using local wood products and have tight emissions controls.

Bevan said Pacific Future Energy first approached his First Nation a year ago, and submitted a detailed project proposal just before Christmas which Bevan said will take about a year for his lands and environmental team to review before any decision might be made support the project.

A recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling related to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, which has been approved by the federal National Energy Board subject to more than 200 conditions, stated the provincial government failed to sufficiently consulted with First Nations through its participation in an environmental review of the project.

“We have been engaging with them for just over six months,” said Bevan of his meetings with Pacific Future Energy. “Right now we are in the midst of that review. Like I always say, let’s just work our way through the review and make our comments and concerns be known.”

As for Kitimat Clean, Bevan said the owner of that company, David Black (who is also the owner of Black Press which publishes The Terrace Standard and other northwestern B.C. newspapers) did not have an adequate project plan for them to review when their support was requested several times over the last few years.

“He was interested in that site as well, but there was a lack of engagement with ourselves and lack of following processes,” said Bevan of the Kitimat Clean plan.

Black is now eyeing another potential location closer to Kitimat which is within Haisla traditional territory.

The two refinery proposals come at a time when the new federal government has begun deliberating on how it would follow through on a 2015 election promise to ban crude oil-carrying tankers from the north coast.

Bevan, who was at a meeting this week in Prince Rupert called by federal transport minister Marc Garneau to discuss how that ban would be put in place, said he’s waiting for details on the shape of the moratorium.

He added that transporting the “neatbit”, which is the term for a dense form of bitumen which would be transported by rail, would be a challenge.

“It’s shipping bitumen by rail. It comes in as a solid and they heat it up and liquefy it and then drop it off, and I am just like wow, I’ve never heard that before…,” said Bevan.

He also questioned the kind of system that would be needed to transport bitumen-laden rail cars on CN’s line south toward the Dubose area.

Kitimat-Stikine regional district director Jessica McCallum Miller, who represents the area containing the proposed refineries, said she would support any decision made by the Kitselas regarding the proposals.

“From my understanding, a lot of residents, myself included, see Canada’s long term prosperity and future enveloped more so in sustainable energy efficiency,” she added.

In a statement released yesterday, Kitimat Clean’s Black said he’s close to filing an environmental description of his multi-billion project with federal and provincial authorities.

Black said the promise by the federal government to ban crude oil tankers from the North Coast “reinforces the advantage of putting in a refinery and keeping oil out of tankers.”

The list of Pacific Future Energy executives includes executive chairman Samer Salameh who is also the chief executive officer of the multi-billion dollar Mexican industrial conglomerate Grupo Salinas.

Also on the list is Shawn Atleo, a former head of the national Assembly of First Nations.

With files from Cameron Orr, Kitimat Northern Sentinel.