David Black says the "worldscale" refinery he wants to build near Kitimat will produce 6,000 jobs over a six-year buildout and 3,000 long-term jobs in operation and spinoff employment.
Black's company, Kitimat Clean Ltd., is proposing to build the refinery at the Dubose site, 25 kilometres north of Kitimat, and pipe gasoline, diesel and kerosene 40 kilometres to a marine terminal on Douglas Channel for loading onto tankers.
The refinery, which would be the first to be built in Canada for 25 years, would be capable of processing 550,000 barrels per day, ranking it among the world's top 10 in capacity.
Chevron's Burnaby facility, by comparison, produces 55,000 barrels while B.C.'s only other refinery, Husky's operation in Prince George, puts out 12,000 barrels.
Black said it would have the capacity to process the entire output of the planned Enbridge pipeline, separating the diluent that makes oilsands bitumen flow in a pipeline and sending that product back to Edmonton via a second line.
Black said moving refined fuels "removes the threat of offshore pollution from a heavy oil spill."
He said gasoline and diesel would evaporate in the event of a spill at sea and no "extensive remediation would be required" when compared with a bitumen spill.
Timing is key for Kitimat Clean. Black and consulting engineer Glenn McGinnis, a 40-year industry veteran, hope to finish construction by 2020. The proposed pipeline would be finished sooner, in late 2017, according to an Enbridge timeline.
Black said he would personally fund the environmental review process, expected to run to tens of millions of dollars, and raise the $13 billion for the refinery through partnerships with an operator, fuel buyers likely from Asia, and investors on Wall Street and Bay Street, including mutual fund brokers and pension funds "eager to fund infrastructure projects."
Black, who describes himself as a "British Columbian and quiet environmentalist," said principal issues will be air, land and water protection.
Refineries require a huge land base and fresh water supplies, and release massive of amounts of greenhouse gases into the air - in this case seven million tonnes of CO2 per year.
"We hope to avoid drawnout controversy during the environmental process by setting specifications that make this the cleanest and greenest refinery in the world," Black said.
He said oilsands crude would otherwise end up being shipped to countries with less efficient refineries and lower environmental standards.
The proposed refinery, which would sprawl over 10 square kilometres and require a natural gas cogeneration plant to provide steam and electric power, is on Crown land zoned for industrial use. Along with the terminal site, both cover traditional territories of the Kitselas and Haisla First Nations. The sides have yet to have serious discussions, said Black.
The Enbridge pipelines are planned to run through the property.
He is hopeful Opposition Leader Adrian Dix, who is leading in the polls as a May 2013 election draws closer, will support the plan.
"He has proven to be an excellent politician," said Black. "Too often though, good politicians recognize a parade and try to jump in front of it. I prefer an excellent statesman - one who is prepared to try to lead people in the right direction, not necessarily the popular direction of the moment ... I urge Adrian to become an excellent statesman."
Black said people shouldn't be surprised to see him shift his focus from newspapers to one of the largest capital projects in B.C. history. In perspective, the refinery's $13-billion price tag, which is expected to creep higher, is nearly double the $7.9-billion cost estimate for the Site C Dam project proposed for the Peace River.
Black said he's had an interest in a refinery for years, first proposing the concept to Canada's oil companies in 2005 when he was chairman of the B.C.
Progress Board under thenpremier Gordon Campbell.
He said there remains little interest in refineries among oil companies because profit margins are much lower than in other areas, such as drilling and transporting energy.
"I am hoping to serve as a catalyst to attract an industry consortium that will undertake the project. But if no industry player steps forward during the two years of environmental assessment, I will do all that I can to organize the capital and build the refinery."
"I think the pipeline, if it is built to the highest standards, and the refinery are crucially important to our northern communities, to B.C., to Alberta and to Canada," said Black. "We must protect the environment, but we must create jobs for the next generation ... it is our responsibility to do both."
Black, who has a degree in civil engineering and a MBA, said he expects criticism of both the project and his role. "I am not an expert on oil refineries [but] ... I have a wealth of practical business experience in strategic planning, negotiating, budgeting, hiring and working with financial lenders," he said. "And I have an acquaintance with many senior business people and politicians in Canada."
B lack said he supports Prime Minister Stephen Harper in finding new markets for oilsands crude. He said Canadian oil prices are depressed because the only outlets are through pipelines to the U.S. that are either full or reduced in capacity due to a waning demand south of the border because of the economic downturn.
Shale-fracking techniques boosting crude production in the U.S. also mean U.S. pipelines could fall behind new North American supply for some time, added Black.
He said the discounts in Western Canada crude amount to about $25 billion a year, badly hurting industry profits and government tax revenues.
Black said the U.S. enjoys a pipeline and refining monopoly on all crude leaving Canada. He said American law effectively prevents the export of crude from the U.S., even if the oil comes from imported sources like Canada.
"We are the largest exporter of crude oil to the U.S. and, in the process, we have exported most of our potential refinery jobs to that country as well," said Black. "There is a lot of employment in running refineries, very little in operating pipelines."
The refinery would be built offshore in pieces and shipped to Kitimat. That would bring down the capital cost and make the facility competitive with others around the world.
Black said although operating costs would be higher than refineries in other countries, cheaper natural gas in Canada would help to balance the ledger. He also estimates shipping costs would be 30 per cent lower than crude because no diluent has to be shipped back from overseas.
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