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Feds, B.C. to assess Kitimat Clean refinery proposal

David Black’s proposed $22-billion oil refinery for B.C.
Victoria businessman David Black hopes to have the refinery built by 2022.

David Black’s proposed $22-billion oil refinery for B.C.’s northwest coast is now subject to the environmental assessment process after Kitimat Clean submitted its environmental project description to the federal and provincial governments at the end of March.

The 129-page project description triggers the next step in the process, which is expected to take as long as 21Ú2 years.

Black, who first announced the refinery project in 2012, said the report represents a considerable investment of time and money, but is just another in a long series of steps before a refinery could be up and running. “[The report] also defines the project for everyone very specifically,” Black said, noting he has posted the plan on the Kitimat Clean website to stimulate discussion and get feedback.

Black, a newspaper magnate with 170 publications across North America and a resident of Victoria, expects the environmental assessment process to go smoothly. “Everything they will ask for ... we can do,” Black said.

“There’s no waste water from this kind of refinery. The only thing that could be an environmental issue are smokestacks, and the engineers tell me whatever the requirements are they can match.”

Black said the project description now calls for bitumen destined for the Kitimat facility to be transported as a solid via rail car from Alberta, eliminating the need for a pipeline. “And tankers carrying refined fuels is not a problem. If there is a spill [of refined fuel] it floats and evaporates,” said Black.

“It takes away the problem of carrying diluted bitumen at sea. I think environmentally we are set.”

The project description also sets a timeline that would see the refinery operating as of 2023.

Black expects environmental assessment and engineering studies to take until mid 2018, with procurement and construction to start in mid-2018 and wrapping at the end of 2022.

The refinery is expected to have a lifespan of 50 years and is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2074. Located 13 kilometres north of Kitimat, it will be built to process up to 400,000 barrels of bitumen into fuel products, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. It will also produce byproducts such as butane, propane and sulfur pellets.

The project, laid out in the report, is somewhat scaled down from Black’s original $32-billion proposal that would have seen him also building a pipeline and tankers.

“I’m just focusing on the refinery now,” he said.

Black said he’s still committed to the refinery’s success, despite the enormity of the project, challenge of making it a reality and time commitment involved.

“I’m actually enjoying it ... it’s a great puzzle to work through,” he said.

“There are so many stakeholders, so many people have a say today, and it takes a long time to get it off the ground.”

During the environmental assessment process Black will continue with outreach to First Nations and local communities near Kitimat, putting together a syndicate of engineers to develop the final design, working with the oil industry to work out who will be shipping bitumen and fundraising.

Black doesn’t expect it to be a problem to finance the project.

“Of the $22 billion, $13 billion is to build pre-fabricated modules, which will be done in lower-wage countries with good technology like China and Korea and the financing for that will come from those countries. They will finance because they want the manufacturing in their country,” Black said.

He said he has been told the rest of the money can be found in North America, but he is also speaking with potential investors in the Middle East and China.

“It’s not as hard to finance as you might think,” Black said.