Politicians and Industry Experts Weigh Benefits

The Sarnia Observer (August 28, 2014) -- A study examining the potential for a new $10-billion refinery in Sarnia-Lambton was officially launched on Thursday, with retired Chemical Valley executives and area politicians in attendance.

The vision's been set. It's up to us to deliver, said Clem Bowman, a former head of research at Imperial Oil in Sarnia, as more than 60 people sat listening at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park.

The refinery would work with bitumen from the Alberta oil sands, a substance commonly used in asphalt.

In order to pay for a prefeasibility study, backers are looking to collect $300,000 in funding. They've already received about $130,000 from companies, said Bowman earlier this week. The next step is reaching out to government for the rest.

I'm very supportive of it, said Conservative MPP Bob Bailey, calling the refinery the next major project in North America.

He said he's sent a letter to the Premier Kathleen Wynne about the potential project and reached out to the interim leader of his own party, Jim Wilson as well.

They're well aware at Queen's Park, said Bailey.

Addressing the crowd, former Polysar vice-president and Bowman Centre associate Don Wood laid out his reasoning on why Sarnia is the best place to build a new refinery to capitalize on the production of the oil sands.

We're within a day's drive of half the consumption in North America, said Wood. He added that Sarnia is the only location that already has the infrastructure and pipelines to hit the ground running.

Wood also credits the community support and potential for environmental approval as being attractive assets for a new refinery.

But to handle the added volume a new facility would have to be built he said converting an existing one would be a challenge, he said. Our refineries are not configured for easy expansion.

There are still some issues that need to be addressed.

The major negative we have is the power cost, said Wood, adding that he hopes for the possibility of negotiating that aspect.

He also added that for the refinery idea to gain credibility, the group needs to attract an industry lead.

Walter Petryschuk, the former head of Suncor's refinery in Sarnia said that shipping the product out of country without reaping the rewards is a waste.

If we do not take advantage of that opportunity... we are missing such a big boat, shame on us, he said.

Investing $10 billion into the project could transfer to $50 billion worth of impact on business, he said.

We have to build an affluence and wealth in the nation.

- Brent Boles, Sarnia Observer