A self-described quiet environmentalist, not-quite-a-billionaire but “wealthy enough” businessman in British Columbia is proposing to do something that hasn’t been done in thirty years in Canada: build a refinery.
The proposal — which is little more than a plan on paper at this point — will put a wrinkle in the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline plan that is buckling under mounting opposition in B.C.
David Black is no oil man but is known mostly for his 150 newspapers in Canada and the U.S. And he’s not related to Conrad Black, even though that’s often the question he’s asked.
“I’ll rather not,” Black said when asked why he was planning on entering into the refinery business at a time when licences are rarely granted and refineries throughout the U.S. east coast are closing.
“This is obviously not my field but I really worry about the next generation. There are lot of kids without jobs, lots can’t buy a house ever in Vancouver.”
Black, 66, won’t reveal his net worth but calculates it would cost a couple of million for the environmental assessment process, money he will front himself. He hopes to find investors for his project, which he says will be a safer environmental option than shipping heavy crude overseas.
“We want to take all the oil from the pipeline, the idea is not to ship any heavy crude off-shore,” he said.
Black announced in Vancouver on Friday he’s starting his ambitious project by filing for the environmental assessment process that could take two years to complete. The $13-billion refinery would be dependent on the Northern Gateway pipeline shipping into Kitimat, B.C., oilsands heavy crude oil from northern Alberta.
The refinery, if approved, will be the first to be built in Canada since the Shell refinery was built in Edmonton in 1983.
It is also the first in North America in nearly 35 years with the last significant sophisticated refinery built in Louisiana in 1977, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Oil producers say economics will decide fate of Black’s refinery plan
Canadian oil producers say B.C. newspaper tycoon David Black’s plan for a $13-billion oil refinery at Kitimat would open up Alberta’s oilsands crude to international markets but they warned that Black, who acknowledges he has no background in oil, is getting into a very tough, competitive business.
“The thing that’s key for us as producers is the need for market access,” said Greg Stringham, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “Any concept that helps facilitate that discussion is worth looking at.”