The Sarnia Observer (August 27, 2014) -- Backers of a push to see a new $10-billion refinery built in Sarnia-Lambton to upgrade oil sands bitumen are set to gather Thursday at the Bowman Centre to launch a pre-feasibility study.
Clem Bowman and other retired Chemical Valley executives working on the project are scheduled to present plans for the study expected to be funded by industry and, hopefully, governments.
Bowman, a former head of Imperial Oil's research department in Sarnia who went on to play an important role in developing Alberta's oil sands, returned to Sarnia where the centre named for him was established at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park.
He and others have been working to convince Canada to capture more jobs and wealth from western oil sands by processing and refining additional bitumen in Sarnia-Lambton, instead of exporting that resource to refineries outside of the country.
Those efforts included a bitumen conference that drew oil industry representatives to Sarnia-Lambton last year.
The pre-feasibility study being launched Thursday is the next step.
Bowman said the group's aim was to collect $100,000 from industry and then another $200,000 from governments in Ottawa, Ontario and Alberta.
"We went to a number of companies in the area and, so far, I think we're over $130,000," he said.
"We exceeded our target and everybody seems to be excited about it."
At this point, the Alberta government is willing to provide in-kind technical assistance and sit on a steering committee, Bowman said.
"They're willing to be a participant to help make it happen but since it's out of the province, it's tough for them to put money into it until the Ontario government puts something in."
So far, Ontario hasn't contributed financially, Bowman said.
He added the group has been talking with federal officials and "had some promising discussion, and it's hopeful."
Bowman said the $300,000 required for the study is "a small amount of money to carry out a very important project for Canada."
Increasing Canada's bitumen upgrading capacity by sending more through pipelines to Sarnia, and building a new refinery in Chemical Valley, could see fuels and other high-value products produced right next to the large market in the U.S. Midwest, organizers say.
The Sarnia group has been arguing that Canada is giving away $2.5 million a year in potential wealth by exporting the bitumen, instead of processing more of it at home.
Scheduled to speak at Thursday's launch are Bowman, Bowman Centre associates Don Wood and Walter Petryschuk, as well as Lambton County Warden Todd Case.
Bowman said the importance of the proposed Sarnia upgrader was highlighted in a recent Canadian Academy of Engineering publication that identified it as a national energy project that "would have the best chance" at an having an early start.
"It has had a lot of independent support," Bowman said about the plan.
"Canada will have to invest in its own infrastructure to add value to our resources, and this one in Sarnia is a key one that I haven't heard anyone speak against."
- Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer