'Green' refinery on North Coast proposed

 Christopher Pollon

A B.C. consortium has announced its intent to build the world's "greenest" oil refinery on the North Coast, a project they say will minimize both toxic emissions and the risk of catastrophic oil tanker spills.

"What we propose to do is not easy," said Samer Salameh, Executive Chairman of Pacific Future Energy. "This will be a near zero carbon emission refinery, the cleanest in the world, and very, very expensive."

Salameh said the $10 billion project is currently considering three potential refinery locations on the north coast, all near Prince Rupert. A pre-feasibility study has begun, with hopes to launch into the regulatory process within a year. If all planets align, construction could start within four years.

Being green will mean using biomass and natural gas for energy, and deploying a "huge amount" of carbon capture -- a process where greenhouse gases are captured and stored away from the atmosphere.

"We could have spent $6-7 billion, but we're spending $10 billion to do this the right way," he said.

Engaging with First Nations has been a priority from the outset according to Salameh.

"We've learned from other people's mistakes," he said in a veiled reference to Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which continues to confront a groundswell of native opposition in northern B.C.

Still, the project would benefit from a pipeline like Gateway -- or a rail link to deliver raw bitumen from Alberta to the North Coast. In a worst case scenario, the company believes it could make do with Alberta oil delivered just by rail.

They say a big plus of the plan is that refining and value-adding Alberta oil into products like kerosene and gasoline will also mean not having to export raw bitumen by ocean tanker, which is much more messy to clean up.

This is already the second proposed refinery for the North Coast -- David Black's larger $32 billion Kitimat Clean proposal was announced in 2012. "We're way ahead of anyone else on this project," said Salemeh.

Black told 24 hours it is "not a race" when it comes to the refineries and that two could easily operate in the province.

He said Salameh's group offered to buy out his proposal for a refinery near Kitimat last year.

After the announcement premier Christy Clark announced she would recuse herself from any oil refinery decisions in B.C. due to her ex-husband working for the latest project.  

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