Grand opening of the Fort Air Partnership’s first portable air monitoring station
On April 19th I gave an update to the Alberta Legislature on the commissioning of the new Sturgeon Refinery. I was happy to report that things are going well.
Video and full transcript below:
“At the current stage of construction this refinery is able to process synthetic crude into diesel and other value-added products. Over 2 million barrels have been refined and shipped within western
Canada already, and the refinery has started paying off.”
Sturgeon Refinery Update
Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to give an update on a project that I’m proud to have in my riding, the Sturgeon refinery. It is a good-news story. The refinery is now nearing completion. Nine out of 10 units are now in the commissioning phase. This past December the refinery produced its first diesel, and I was honoured to attend the celebration in Morinville along with my colleague the MLA for Sherwood Park. At the current stage of construction this refinery is able to process synthetic crude into diesel and other value-added products. Over 2 million barrels have been refined and shipped within western Canada already, and the refinery has started paying off.
The Sturgeon refinery is state of the art and a testament to Alberta ingenuity. It’s the world’s first refinery with integrated carbon capture and storage. At completion this refinery will capture 1.2 million tonnes of CO2. The CO2 is safely sequestered by injecting it into depleted geological formations deep beneath the Earth’s
surface. This is the equivalent of taking nearly 300,000 cars off our roads. The refinery also protects the environment by producing an ultra low sulphur product with low carbon intensity. From a peak of 8,000 workers to around 2,500 today this refinery has logged over 50 million hours of employment. During one of the worst downturns in recent memory this project has provided a decent income to thousands of Alberta families.
Further, this refinery has stood out as a leader in ensuring an equitable and representative workforce through partnering with organizations
such as Women Building Futures and working closely with First Nation communities. It is also known as a good neighbour by the farmers nearby and is a huge supporter of the local community.
Seventy-five per cent of Albertans want to see more refining done in this province. The Sturgeon refinery was the first new refinery built in years and was done with the novel funding arrangement that has made this project possible. The North West Redwater Partnership is to be commended for creating something successful and truly made in Alberta. Thank you.
A controversial refinery north of Edmonton has reached an important milestone. The Sturgeon Refinery is now producing diesel.
Two units in Phase 1 of the refinery are still under construction. That means it still cannot refine raw bitumen into diesel but it is converting synthetic crude into fuel.
CEO Ian MacGregor says the milestone means a lot. He likens refinery production with the last spike in the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
“I feel like, you see the picture of Van Horne and the little kid in the back there and this is the closest an engineer can get to feeling like that.”
The Sturgeon project is the first new refinery in Canada since 1984. When complete, Phase 1 will produce 50,000 barrels per day of diesel.
The project has had problems along the way. The completion date has been pushed back. Project costs have ballooned. They jumped from an estimated $6.5 billion in 2011 to $9.3 billion. Former provincial finance minister, Ted Morton criticized provincial involvement.
MacGregor maintains the economics behind the refinery are sound.
“Everyone focuses on how much they cost today. If you think of the channel between Britain and France, in the day, it was more expensive than they thought it would be. No one remembers that now.
“There’s hundreds of problems a day these guys are solving. We’ll work through them and it’ll work in the end.
“Then, 50 years from now, people will never remember anything but how much money and how much diesel comes out of it,” MacGregor said.
MacGregor says the refinery’s real value is not what comes out of it; but what goes in. It will eventually be a place to locally sell Alberta bitumen.
The provincial government also has a stake in the refinery. It can collect royalties from oilsands producers in bitumen instead of money. The province has agreed to refine a portion of that bitumen at the Sturgeon Refinery. There is risk to the province but area MLAs say the risk is manageable.
“This is going to be a real benefit for Albertans going forward. I think we’ll be making our money back and more,” said Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA, Colin Piquette.
Piquette adds the project has helped create jobs in the area. Thirty-six-thousand people have worked on building Phase 1 of the refinery. They collectively worked 40 million hours.
Company officials want to soon expand the refinery and build Phase 2 and Phase 3. Each addition would increase output by 50,000 barrels per day of diesel.
As enthused as the province is with the project, so far it isn’t promising any more royalty commitments to backstop phases two and three.
“Officially, until Phase 1 has demonstrated its viability and it’s up and running, there’d be no official discussions on that,” Piquette said. “They’re open to talking but it’s a bit premature at this stage.”
The refinery will use carbon capture technology, capturing 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year, then move it down a pipeline for enhanced oil recovery in central Alberta.
On July 24th I was honoured to have the Honourable Christina Gray, Minister of Labour and Democratic Renewal visit our riding as part of a Northern Alberta tour. Minister Gray toured the Northwest Refinery and dropped into Redwater to speak with Mayor and Council. MLA Jessica Littlewood for Fort Saskatchewan -Vegreville also came along for the visit and it was wonderful to see her as well. It was a great day- despite the awful weather!
The NWR Partnership is presently completing construction of Phase I and is in a testing/monitoring phase prior to start-up later this year. As a matter of fact two of the boilers were live and producing steam the day we went. Great to see the incredible progress they’ve made over the past couple of years.This project has been a driving force in construction activity in the Industrial Heartland over the past several years, providing employment for 5,000 – 7,000 people.
They are now starting to work towards approvals for Phase II which will once again drive construction in the area. Minister Gray had the opportunity to meet with Ian McGregor and other plant officials before touring the refinery itself. The tradespeople she met were great advocates for the project, and the pride they have in being part of it shone through.
Minister Gray had originally planned to visit Agrium as well but unfortunately this did not work out. Agrium is one of the largest fertilizer complexes in North America, and the largest private sector employer in Sturgeon County.
I was very proud of the reception the Minister and MLA Littlewood received from the Town of Redwater. Mayor Smith and Council have a special talent for being completely forthright in their concerns while never failing to be the epitome of courtesy and respect. They made a great pitch for Phase II, but also expressed their questions and concerns on such issues as electoral boundaries and rural representation, labour legislation, nonprofit fundraising.
Later that day I returned the favour and accompanied the Minister and MLA Littlewood to Lamont where we met with a large group of municipal officials. Once again, an excellent and frank discussion was held on such issues as rural depopulation, Bill 17, senior supports, among many others.
Minister Gray showed herself to be an adept and sympathetic listener, but also well informed on all aspects of government policy. I know she found this tour to be a valuable exercise and the participants seemed to agree. I am quite sure though that we all agree that she is welcome back any time!
As we approach the second anniversary of our government and my own as an MLA, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the progress that’s been made in my own riding of Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.
When I was first elected, there were many outstanding issues, some long overdue, that needed to be addressed. For instance, the bridge over the Athabasca River on highway 813 had been in need of replacement since my father was the MLA. Now, thanks to the commitment of our government to make good on years of previous neglect, this is finally happening.
The completion of highway 63’s twinning and the multiple upgrades and curve reductions on highway 28 have made driving much safer for my constituents and indeed for all those who live and work in northeastern Alberta.
Two years ago Athabasca University’s status was uncertain. Now, thanks to our new government, a sustainable future has been assured for the university and for the community that depends on it.
Happily, I would need more than two minutes to list all the improvements to health care facilities, schools, and seniors’ facilities that we have been fortunate to receive as well. These investments speak well to the government’s commitment to the health, education, and well-being of rural Albertans.
The Industrial Heartland is not only of utmost strategic importance to Alberta’s long-term prospects; its local importance cannot be overstated. Thanks to our continued support for the North West Refinery’s phase 1, our petrochemicals diversification program, and, of course, our success in reframing our reputation as a responsible energy producer, investor confidence has been restored and new projects announced. But with increasing development in the Industrial Heartland, traffic has reached critical levels, severely impacting workers, local residents, and jeopardizing future growth. Working closely with municipal and industry partners, we have introduced badly needed intersection improvements to help clear congestion and improve safety.
We’ve made great progress on these issues and on many others, of course, but there’s always much more work that needs to be done, and we will continue towards those goals.