Local Industries Fund Half the Cost of $300K Pre-Feasibility Study

The Sarnia Observer (October 9, 2014) -- Sarnia-Lambton's pitch for a $10-billion refinery to upgrade oil sands bitumen appears to be receiving a groundswell of support from its neighbours in western Canada.

The Alberta Federation of Labour recently invited a Sarnia-Lambton delegation to present its proposal at an Edmonton conference attended by representatives of its provincial government, labour movement and business community.

The feedback was quite positive from many of the groups, said Katherine Albion, director of The Bowman Centre at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park.

They were quite passionate about keeping the jobs and the wealth in Canada rather than shipping them with the bitumen to places outside of Canada, like the U.S. Gulf Coast and even China.

A total of $150,000 has already been committed by local industry towards the $300,000 pre-feasibility study necessary for the project.

Once the year-long study is complete, Albion said project supporters would find a major partner to move forward with a full feasibility study.

We have talked to a number and there is interest in the project, she added.

At the same time, the Alberta Federation of Labour has already consulted with a third-party group to investigate the potential for its own bitumen upgrader.

Results of that economic study showed such a refinery could be profitable, Albion noted. When asked if there was room in the marketplace for two new bitumen upgraders in Canada, Albion said, Studies have shown that would be demand for more products than two [refineries] could produce.

In Sarnia-Lambton, a bitumen upgrader would allow fuels and other high-value products to be produced next door to a large market in the U.S. Midwest, supporters say.

They've also pointed out that Canada is giving away $2.5 million a year by exporting instead of processing more bitumen at home.

The Alberta government has already committed to provide in-kind technical assistance to Sarnia's project, but neither the Ontario or Canadian government has contributed financially to the project.

Backers of the project are hopeful to collect the remaining funding for the pre-feasibility study from senior levels of government.

We are confident that we'll get funding from one of these sources, Albion said, adding background work has already begun for the study.

- Barbara Simpson, Sarnia Observer