Black touts ‘safer’ oil-by-rail plan for B.C. refinery

'Dead' Northern Gateway pipeline prompts plan B to move bitumen using trains

Victoria businessman David Black spoke to Rotarians in South Surrey Nov. 18 about his proposal for an oil refinery in northwestern B.C.

Victoria businessman David Black spoke to Rotarians in South Surrey Nov. 18 about his proposal for an oil refinery in northwestern B.C.

B.C. oil refinery proponent David Black says his $22-billion proposal won’t die with the apparently thwarted Northern Gateway pipeline – he aims to bring oil sands bitumen across northern B.C. by train instead.

The Victoria businessman, who is majority owner of Black Press and this newspaper, spoke Wednesday at a Rotary Club meeting in South Surrey.

Black’s Kitimat Clean proposal calls for a refinery between Terrace and Kitimat that would process bitumen into gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels for Asian markets.

He said the federal Liberal government’s move to formally ban crude oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast means the Northern Gateway pipeline plan is “pretty much dead” but that shouldn’t block tanker exports of refined fuel, which would be less damaging than a spill of crude or bitumen at sea.

Black said his plan to carry oil by rail will be far safer than the crude oil trains that have been vulnerable to fiery disasters elsewhere.

He said he’s in talks with CN Rail to load rail cars with undiluted bitumen, which would be much thicker – virtually solid – compared to the diluted bitumen that moves through pipelines or the light oil that’s often carried by train.

The bitumen would be heated at the beginning and end of each rail trip to make it flow for loading and unloading from tanker cars. Black argues it would be unlikely to leak or burn if a train derailed.

“It’s safer and way easier,” he said, estimating six trains a day would run every four hours.

Black continues to pursue environmental approvals, and believes that with green lights from regulators and first nations, oil shippers and financiers will come on board.

But his is not the only such proposal.

Pacific Future Energy, led by a Mexican conglomerate, initially tried to buy Black out and has since proposed a similar refinery with the same technology. Its backers include SNC Lavalin and prominent aboriginal advisors.

Pacific Future initially proposed a site in Prince Rupert but Black said that firm is trying to strike a deal with the Kitselas band for the same site Kitimat Clean had chosen.

There are other potential sites with different first nations, he said, but they’re less suitable.

Black also criticized the provincial government’s focus on liquefied natural gas projects.

He said his refinery would generate more permanent jobs and taxes for governments than even an optimistic number of LNG plants.

“Government really dove at this,” he said, adding the province “rolled over” in guaranteeing generous tax treatment to get the industry on board, leaving little future revenue to government.

Too many LNG plants are already being built in Australia and the U.S., he said, while Japan’s shift back towards nuclear power will cut demand.

“I just don’t think there’s much chance,” Black said. “The LNG dream is now fading.”

Black is not concerned that low oil prices will also doom his refinery dream.

He said he believes low prices as well as the U.S. rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast will make his option for reaching lucrative Pacific markets increasingly attractive to oil firms grappling with narrowing margins, particularly in Alberta’s oil sands.

Black maintains a refinery can’t be built in Alberta itself because of opposition from multinational oil firms that own Texas refineries, and because the large prefabricated modules that can be assembled on the B.C. coast can’t be hauled inland.

His proposal would use an unusual technology – adding $5 billion to the costs – that slashes the carbon emissions to less than one third of a conventional refinery.

Black argues the “greenest refinery in the world” would largely offset the higher emissions of oil sands bitumen and forge a political solution for Canada’s energy policy makers.

“It cleans the whole industry up,” Black said. “We’re not in the dirty oil business any more. We get huge value add. And it takes away the issue of a heavy oil spill at sea.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Fun in Penticton is being promoted through banners going up along Main and Westminster. (Suzanne White Western News)
Banners go up in downtown celebrating fun in Penticton

From beach or biking time to dining or shopping, the banners promote things to do

George Ryga, considered by many as Canada’s most important English playwright lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987. He is the inspiration for the annual Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)
Summerland archive established for George Ryga

Renowned author wrote novels, poetry, stage plays and screen plays from Summerland home

Municipal crews are clearing sand from streets in Summerland. The street sweeping is expected to be completed by early June. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland crews clearing sand from streets

Work expected to be completed by early June

A hummingbird gives its wings a rare rest while feeding in a North Okanagan garden. (Karen Siemens/North Okanagan Naturalists Club)
Hummingbirds back for another Okanagan season

North America’s littlest birds return, and they’re hungry

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

(Kingfisher Boats photo)
In the market for a boat in the North Okanagan? Be prepared to wait

Vernon’s Kingfisher Boats is out of 2021 models, with many 2022 models already pre-sold

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

Grizzly bear. (File)
Malakwa man bitten by grizzly bear on dog walk

The man and dogs were not seriously injured

Most Read