As the NDP government looks for ways to kick start Alberta’s economy, the partnership building the Sturgeon Refinery near Redwater, north of Edmonton, feels it has a very strong case to make.
Phase one of the $8.5-billion refinery is scheduled to begin operating in late 2017. To make that deadline, a small army of men and women are on site every day.
“We have 7,500 people working out here today,” said Ian MacGregor, president of North West Refining, which has partnered with Canadian Natural Upgrading Limited to build the refinery.
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Along with employment, MacGregor says they have an environmental case as well. The refinery will use carbon capture technology, capturing 40,000 tonnes of CO2 per day, then move it down a pipeline for enhanced oil recovery in central Alberta.
With the first phase entering the final stages, the partnership is now positioning itself to expand.
“We always conceived this as three identical copies of the exact same thing,” MacGregor said. “Once we did the engineering for phase one, we’ve more or less got the engineering done now.”
The next step is to begin a conversation with the provincial government. The province is an integral part of the new refinery. It is providing bitumen and paying for it to be upgraded to diesel.
“We agreed that we would both go back and have a look at it after we got to a certain point in the construction process,” MacGregor said. “We think we’re nearing that point now.”
The NDP government campaigned on adding more value to Alberta’s natural resources, but isn’t jumping at the opportunity to expand this partnership just yet.
“Government hasn’t made any decision with regard to further phases of the Sturgeon Refinery,” Minister of Energy Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in a statement. “We are awaiting completion of phase one so we can assess its operations and make sure that phase two is in the public interest.”
MacGregor believes the case has been made, and when the time is right, he will approach the government about moving ahead with helping Alberta’s economy.
“We’re making something of value, we’re doing it in a low CO2 way, and we’re making something we can export with the existing infrastructure we have.”
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