Not all of Canada’s oil sands are destined for the proposed – and much disputed – Keystone XL pipeline through the United States.
Energy start-up Pacific Energy Future Corp. hopes to build a new, environmentally friendly oil refinery on the northwestern coast of British Columbia. It’s the second new refinery proposed for the country’s Pacific Coast to refine and export the huge amounts of oil in the sands of Alberta. Samer Salameh, the executive chairman of Pacific Energy Future, says the refinery, which is estimated to cost $10 billion to build, could be processing up to 1 million barrels of crude a day in about seven years.
The Canadian government is expected to decide soon whether approve another plan, from Enbridge Inc., to build a pipeline that would ship 525,000 barrels a day of Alberta oil to a coastal refinery in Kitimat, BC. But the Northern Gateway pipeline is strongly opposed by environmental and First Nations native groups who fear it could lead to disastrous oil spill in the Pacific.
Pacific Energy Future’s approach is different. While Enbridge’s proposal would ship unprocessed oil sand, also known as “dilbit,” to its customers, Salameh said he plans to ship only refined oils to customers, primarily in Asia, lessening the risk of damage to the ocean.
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“I think everybody knows that it’s in Canada’s strategic national interest to increase and diversify oil production into Asia,” he said. “But I think everybody in their heart knows that shipping this dilbit is not the answer.”
“We think that’s not the right thing to do by the environment, it’s not the right thing to do by First Nations and it’s not the right thing to do by the B.C. People,” Salameh said, adding, “This is a solution to everybody’s problem.”
Not necessarily. Opponents of the Enbridge plan say they’re not completely sold on Pacific Energy Future’s plan either. According to Greepeace’s Mike Hudema, “The people of BC and over 130 First Nations … do not want tar sands in liquid or refined form coming through their traditional territories because of the risk to their communities and the environment.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com