THE owner and prime financial backer of a project to build a $22 billion oil refinery near Kitimat says he’s disappointed it is being sent to a federal review panel before a decision is made on whether or not to give it environmental approval.
Kitimat Clean Ltd. president David Black said the panel announcement made late Sept. 9 by federal environment minister Catherine McKenna will add close to two years to the project and cost his company approximately an additional $2.5 million along the way.
“I won’t say it’s a roadblock, but it is a hurdle,” said Black last week.
The review to be conducted through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency calls for the panel to be established within three months, which will then submit a report back to the agency 16 months after that. Then McKenna will make her decision within five months after that.
The 16-month panel review will include a series of public hearings and submissions from interested parties. McKenna’s announcement of the review panel was short on specifics.
Follow up information referred to the assessment agency receiving “71 comments from the public and indigenous groups relating to the potential significant adverse environmental effects of the project, including a request that the environmental assessment be referred to a review panel.”
Those comments were received after Kitimat Clean submitted its project proposal in the spring, but they have yet to be released.
“The project has the potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects to fish and fish habitat, marine species at risk, the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes and trans-boundary effects related to greenhouse gas emissions from refinery operations,” the assessment agency said.
Black said the assessment agency hasn’t provided him with any details of the above.
He said the project proposal sent in the spring answers any questions raised about the impact of the refinery project and how it will produce refined petroleum products to be shipped to it by rail from Alberta oil producers. He had expected the project to move to detailed approvals and permits as opposed to it being sent to a review panel.
“What this will do is clean the environment up,” said Black of the refinery process, which he describes as the cleanest in the world.
C02 emissions will be vastly reduced compared to those to be produced should crude oil be shipped to Asia and refined there, he said.
“If it was to be refined in Southeast Asia, that would produce 23 million tonnes of (C02) emissions a year. That’s the equivalent to the emissions of six million cars of Canadians a year,” said Black.
“So any delay means we’re not taking the equivalent of those cars off the road each year.”
Black also said it is far more environmentally preferable to ship refined petroleum products from the north coast than any existing plan to ship crude.
Should there be a spill, the impact of refined products will be far less than is the case with heavy oil, because they will evaporate, he added.
Black also said a refinery will add billions of dollars worth of economic activity within the country and generate thousands of jobs within the northwest and beyond.
Black’s been selling the refinery project, officially introduced in 2012, as a nation-building exercise to add value to a raw resource rather than simply having bitumen exported for processing overseas.
The study forecasts taxation revenues of up to $1 billion a year for various levels of government and the creation of 1,250 direct jobs, 1,250 contract jobs tied to operations and thousands of indirect ones through the region. A five-year construction window is forecast with as many as 7,000 workers needed as well as a large camp facility located at the refinery location.
At full capacity the refinery would process upwards of 400,000 barrels a day of bitumen, producing diesel, jet fuel and gasoline to be delivered to the marine export terminal via pipeline. The fuels would be pumped aboard large tankers with one scheduled to leave the marine export terminal every four days for the trip to Asia.
The refinery would be located on approximately 1,000 hectares of mostly Crown land 13 kilometres north of Kitimat, as well as on associated works such as rail spurs, a tank farm, a marine export terminal on the Douglas Channel near Kitimat, and on a 23-kilometre long corridor containing three pipelines to carry refined fuels from the refinery to the terminal for tanker export overseas.
Black has been the sole investor of the project and has yet to attract energy companies who instead favour their own refineries. He’s also the owner of Black Press, the newspaper company which owns The Terrace Standard and other newspapers in northwestern B.C. and beyond.