Redwater — Unless you’re working on it or happen to drive by the remote site, you probably haven’t seen the Sturgeon Refinery.
The $8.5 billion project in Sturgeon County, 45 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, is Alberta’s first new oil refinery in 30 years. It’s rising from the ground in a complex but orderly layout of pipe racks, reactor vessels, storage tanks, concrete and steel.
Ian MacGregor, the project’s founder, and Doug Bertsch, “Employee No. 1,” gave the Journal a tour.
This summer 2,400 workers, mostly in the building trades, have been on the bustling 240-hectare site near an Agrium fertilizer plant.
Another 2,000 tradespeople are at work in modular shops around Edmonton. The workforce also includes 400 employees of North West Redwater Partnership, the alliance building the refinery, and 500 others at engineering firms.
“One of the things that I’m especially proud of here is this is a job that really benefits Alberta,” said Bertsch, vice-president, regulatory and stakeholder affairs, North West Redwater Partnership.
“The great majority of them are from the local region. They go home every night to their own homes for dinner. The buses pick them up near their homes.
“And at a time when Alberta needs jobs, this site is providing lots, and it’s expanding. It’s providing more opportunity yet.”
In 2017, when the first phase is complete, the refinery will convert 79,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day into ultra low-sulphur diesel fuel and other products including diluent and low-sulphur vacuum gas oil.
The refinery is the first in the world to be designed with an integrated system to capture carbon dioxide produced during the refining process. Captured CO2 will be transported in the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line and used for enhanced oil recovery from depleted oilfields in central Alberta.
If the planned second and third phases go ahead, the site could see 10 years of steady construction activity, said MacGregor, who is president, chief executive and board chairman at North West Upgrading Inc., one of the partners in the project.
Like Bertsch, MacGregor touts employment benefits in a year that has seen thousands of job losses across Alberta’s energy sector.
“We’ll be at 5,000 workers next summer, about 86 per cent building trades,” MacGregor said.
North West Redwater Partnership is an alliance between North West Upgrading and Canadian Natural Upgrading Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.
North West Upgrading is starting to conduct business under a name it says is a better fit — NW Refining.
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