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$13-billion refinery proposed for Kitimat

VANCOUVER – A Victoria businessman is heading up a proposal to build a $13-billion oil refinery in Kitimat.

David Black, chairman and owner of Black Press, announced Friday he wants to build a world scale oil refinery at Kitimat, B.C.

Black told a news conference in Vancouver Friday he is submitting an environmental assessment application to build a "world scale" oil refinery on behalf of Kitimat Clean Ltd., a company owned by Black. The application to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is expected this fall.

The proposed refinery would be big enough to process all the diluted bitumen carried by Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Black said he has had extensive discussions with Enbridge and other players in the Canadian oil industry, but none has so far offered to back the project.

Black said he will use his own money to finance the proposal through environmental assessment, which he expects to cost several million dollars. After that, he said investors would be needed to complete it, assuming both the refinery and the pipeline receive approval.

He has had preliminary meetings with Kitimat and Terrace councils, as well as the Haisla and Kitselas First Nations in the region. The proposed site is a 3,000-hectare Crown industrial property between Terrace and Kitimat.

Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan spoke by phone to the news conference, offering encouragement for the proposal. But Black acknowledged he does not yet have formal support from communities or investors.

"I see myself as a catalyst to make this happen," said Black, who first proposed the idea to the province and the industry seven years ago when he was chairman of the B.C. Progress Board.

Black is working with Glenn McGinnis, a consulting engineer and former manager of the Ioco oil refinery in Port Moody.

"We want it [the Kitimat refinery] to be the cleanest and greenest upgrading and refining site in the world," McGinnis said.

The refinery would produce 240,000 barrels per day of diesel, 100,000 barrels per day of gasoline and 50,000 barrels per day of kerosene or aviation fuel, refined from heavy oil.

Among those attending the news conference was Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, a group in the Kitimat area that has strongly opposed the pipeline proposal. Sterritt disputed Black's assertion that a B.C. refinery "solves half of the problem" with exported oil by shipping refined gasoline, jet fuel and diesel in tankers instead of heavy crude. Those products have their own risks, Sterritt said.

Black pointed out that without marine shipments of those fuels, the remote coastal communities Sterritt represents would not be able to function. The lighter fuel products are still an environmental hazard, but they dissipate much more quickly and do not persist for many years like spilled heavy crude, he said.

NDP energy critic John Horgan was also skeptical.

"At this point, it's a proposal without business partners and without First Nations and local community support," Horgan said. "It doesn't change our position [opposing] the Enbridge Northern Gateway project."

Black said the refinery will mean nearly 6,000 construction jobs over a five-year period, 3,000 permanent jobs at the refinery and tax revenue for various levels of government.

Meantime, a politician in Northern B.C. reacted with skepticism, calling Black's refinery plan "ridiculous."

*with videos by Kolby Solinsky...

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