Refinery project's impact 'huge'
Refinery project's impact 'huge'
Sun, March 11, 2007
Shell wants to build the plant in the Sarnia area.
By CHIP MARTIN, SUN MEDIA
The first public meeting about Shell Canada's plans to build North America's first completely new refinery in more than two decades -- a multi- billion-dollar project --comes this month.
If built, says an optimistic Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, the refinery would be the largest construction project in Ontario history and would turn the Sarnia area into "a mini-Alberta," with far-reaching economic and social impacts.
And it could ensure Ontario has a secure local oil supply for years to come.
The "heavy oil" refinery is intended to process oil derived from the oil sands of Northern Alberta.
Residents of the Sarnia area, where the multibillion project could rise, will be asked to comment on the proposed terms of reference for an environmental assessment. Details will be provided later, said a "notice of project commencement" in yesterday's London Free Press.
The new refinery would boost the security and amount of gasoline in Ontario and reduce the risk of supply shortages such as the current one where stations are closed and prices have spiked because of fires at Imperial Oil refineries in Sarnia and Nanticoke.
Shell Canada has a refinery on 162 hectares within Sarnia, but last fall the company took an option on another 2,023 hectares immediately south of the city in St. Clair Township. At the time, it announced a $50-million project to consider the feasibility of a refinery there. It also established a project assessment team in Sarnia.
LeighAnne Richardson, communications co-ordinator for Shell Canada, said yesterday the company announced the public meetings for March 28 and 29 to comply with Ontario's environment assessment process.
She cautioned a final decision about construction won't be made by Shell for two or three years. If approved, a the plant would be on-line in 2012 or 2013.
Richardson said Shell wants a new refinery to boost supply in the Ontario market. Shell's last new refinery was built in Northern Alberta in 1984 and that remains North America's newest refinery built from scratch.
The Shell spokesperson said the cost of the refinery and the size of its workforce will depend on the design and the scope of the project. All that will be determined by the project team in Sarnia.
Richardson conceded refineries are expensive and a price tag in the billions is not out of the question.
"It would be a significant investment," Richardson said.
Bradley said he met with Shell officials as recently as last week. He predicted the plant could cost as much as $6 billion to $8 billion and provide as many as 600 to 700 jobs.
"This will have a huge regional impact," Bradley said. He's hoping to be ready for the construction boom to ensure the most needy in his community aren't displaced as housing prices escalate and construction workers flood in.
The mayor said real estate prices have already begun to rise as word gets around that the area may soon become a boomtown. Already, he said, the region has become an importer of construction workers.
Bradley is also anxious the Sarnia region doesn't get sidetracked in its efforts at economic diversification to wean the Chemical Valley off its heavy dependence on oil.
Aside from the benefit for Sarnia and the region, Bradley said a new refinery would be good news to the province's motorists.
"Ontario's gas tanks won't run dry," he predicted, noting Sarnia already produces 40 per cent of the oil and gas and petrochemicals in Eastern Canada.
Richardson and Bradley said the new refinery, if built, would be environmentally responsible and have no connections with the St. Clair River.
If they build it, the proposed Shell Canada Refinery near Sarnia would:
- Be North America's first new oil refinery since 1984
- Refine heavy oil from the Alberta oil sands
- Cost as much as $6 billion to $8 billion
- Employ as many as 700 full-time workers;
- Be located on more than 2,000 hectares in St. Clair Township, immediately south of the Sarnia border
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