BC media mogul David Black announces his plan to build a $13 Billion oil refinery in Kitimat (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP )

Refining the Black Stuff in Kitimat Doesn’t Make Sense


One must, I suppose, take newspaper tycoon David Black’s offer to build a refinery near Kitimat seriously, although the idea is preposterous on several fronts.

For openers, he doesn’t tell us who will be behind such a refinery. He admits he doesn’t have the money – an important matter.

Of course, Mr. Black tosses out employment as jelly bean for us to enjoy, citing 6,000 jobs over the six year construction period and 3,000 long-term in the operation of the refinery. He doesn’t mention any research on this issue – one must take these numbers with the skepticism which always rightly greets announcements of undertakings like this.

Mr. Black ignores the fundamental issues here.

He ignores the certainty that the pipeline will continue to have spills of bitumen – Enbridge averages one per week – and BC will watch as its wilderness is incrementally destroyed.

It’s interesting to note that Mr. Black doesn’t deny the dangers from oil tankers but allays our fears by saying that because refined oil and gasoline will be replacing bitumen, that our worries are over!

What also is puzzling is the timing of this announcement.

Mr. Black is a self-made billionaire who admits that he knows bugger all about refineries. This suggests that he has some backers in the oil business who are a bit shy about having their pictures in the papers.

Wasn’t the deal that the main customers were Chinese who want the raw bitumen to refine themselves?

Was this idea from David Black? If it means anything at all it must be a diversion to focus on jobs! Jobs!

The announcement attracted attention – but when one reads it, it’s a damp squid.

In my view, the public will have no trouble seeing this proposition for what it is – environmentally unacceptable and as not only no improvement on the Enbridge proposal but, on analysis, worse.

Mr. Black should stick to publishing newspapers.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

14 thoughts on “Refining the Black Stuff in Kitimat Doesn’t Make Sense

  1. Here is an elephant I was just informed of.
    From what I am told investors in the resource sector have lost 85% of the value of their investments. Everyone is dumping oil stocks at the moment.
    Bullish fund managers are outnumbering bearish ones by five to one. The signs are that oil will continue to retreat.
    96 dollars for light crude this morning. Anything less than 100 per and the Tar sands are in the red side of the ledger.

  2. Ah yes, more smoke and mirrors and breathless coverage by the MSM. This is a big set up to make environmentalists look like a bunch of kooky nay sayers. The tiresome ” they are against everything” mantra.

    I will call his bluff.

    Let me suggest that if there is a an absolute need for the tarsands oil, refine it in Alberta at its source and then ship the oil eastern Canada who can use it to help struggling manufacturers in the east, instead of shipping it to China.
    Also make sure that there areno foreign workers allowed to work on the project. That way the money and jobs will remain Canadian.

    So yes please Mr. Black, I call your bluff and raise you.

  3. Exporting tar sands oil as a low-value commodity to be burned in Asian power plants and vehicles is very environmentally destructive and makes little economic sense if true (environmental) costs are accounted for. Far better to extract the oil in relatively small amounts and refine it in Canada (Sarnia?) into value-added petrochemical products for hundreds of years to come. Alberta got along just fine before massive tar sands developments commenced and can survive without them. Most Albertans – and Canadians – are presently living far too high off the hog anyway.

  4. no matter who backs his refinery, the issue is the pipeline, not the refinery. while i agree that we should refine the bitumen here and sell the finished products, the oil types want to just make tons of money.

    black is skirting the real issue….create jobs for us not for everyone else. now, put the refinery in northern bc, sure but then sell the products.

  5. Crankypants hit the nail on the head, ” create a wedge issue between the BC Liberal Party and the BC NDP”. No substance other than to create a wedge.

    Going back to the 2009 election here in the Cariboo, this is what his paper, the lieberals and Taseko mines cooked up for the liberals to take the seat from the NDP.

    “Are you for the mine (jobs) or against the mine (no jobs)”. Just insert “refinery” for “mine”.

    I smell a rat and it looks as if Black’s new allies are Enbridge and likely the Conservatives.

    Next he will be promising to bring peace to the fir World and feed the poor.

  6. This is just a desperate move by the big oil guys. To put David Black out there to pump this ridiculous proposal shows they,re grasping at straws to tone down the dissent in B.C. over the Northern Gateway situation.

    Who knows what they have up their sleeves to try and get Alberta,s bitumen to the Chinese. Curious who dreamed up the proposal of building a refinery in B.C. and not in Alberta. If that,s the best they can come up with it shows the intelligence of these guys. And these guys are saying…..trust us, the pipeline and tanker route are low risk.

    I wouldn,t doubt for one minute Harper and his team dreamed up this one. If B.C. allows the Northern Gateway pipeline we promise to build a refinery at Kitimat………. 10 years later….. we haven,t broken our promise, the refinery will be built….. these things take time.

    Harper has shown over and over again what his promises mean. To Lie. Conceal and Fabricate is the Harper Governments way.

  7. Harper is permitting China to buy up the tar sands. They are permitted to bring their own people to work the tar sands. Harper said, China will bring thousands of their own citizens, to build the Enbridge pipeline. China can pay their own people dirt cheap wages, to refine the oil in their own country. That’s the deal Harper made with China. What jobs for Canadians?

    Premier Redford launched a web site, the wall of shame. Seems company’s at the tar sands, are not paying their workers. Their names will go on the wall of shame. China is the worst offender. Contractors at the sands, have a hell of a time, getting their money out of China. There is a court case regarding, the deaths of two Chinese workers. We all know of China’s Human Rights. There are none.

    Enbridge and their scam of a map, of the Douglas Channel, with the islands removed…has infuriated the people of BC even more. The dirty tar oil, would still have to get to Mr. Blacks refinery. The massive tankers still have to get through, one of the worst seas in the world. With the islands still in the Channel. The islands really haven’t vanished. Hairpin turns, are still in order, for the tankers.

  8. Even if Alberta invested in a BC owned refinery in eastern B.C. and gave us a greater share of the profits the risks to the BC waterways would still be increased and worst of all, all of that dirtiest of carbon energy supplies would still be burned and still contibute to poisoning our atmosphere, and changing our climate. Leave it in the ground. Seriously!

  9. I try to not use fossil fuels
    or if i do i use it sparingly via public transit and one return air per year and also as a foot passenger on BC ferries
    supply and demand
    what will China use it for?

  10. The reality is that this announcement by Mr. Black should have not been given the exposure it has received by the MSM. It is nothing more than an attempt to try and create a wedge issue between the BC Liberal Party and the BC NDP. Hence the emphasis on mega-job creation.

    It doesn’t pass the smell test, plain and simple. No willing suppliers of dilbit, no identified customers of finished product, no identified site for the refinery and no concrete financial backing is not the formula a self-made billionaire would likely have employed to gain his wealth.

    What’s worse is that there are rumblings that the next provincial election will be postponed until October of next year, which means we will probably be hearing about more pie in the sky announcements created to coerce the electorate to support Christy & Co.

  11. It all makes no sense. And it’s all moot anyway. Climate Change demands that’s e must not expand the oil sands. Can’t these guys think of ANYTHING other than fossil fuel production to create jobs??

  12. I believe Canada and every other carbon mining country should apply to a global body to mine and use/export its carbon resources from this point forward. We have already identified more than 5 times the amount of petroleum natural gas and coal products necessary that if released into our atmosphere will increase our temperature to dangerous levels. So which countries are going to fall on their swords so our grandchildren can breath. This discussion of developing Alberta Tar Sands is moot and annoying. The petroleum lobby seem to think if they throw enough permutations into the discussion we will forget Tar Sands Development is signing our own death sentence. So can we be fooled all of the time or just some of the time.

  13. This is the same man who, with his wife, applied for farm status for their mansion and acreage in Oak Bay by virtue of having a large garden, for the purpose of having their property taxed as a farm (fat chance in Oak Bay). He should stick with running newspapers.

  14. Refining the black stuff in Canada does make sense. Refining the black stuff in Kitimat does not make sense. Refine it in Bruderheim, the place in Alberta where the Northern Gateway pipeline is planned to start from. It is true that a tanker spill of diesel would be less damaging than a tanker spill of bitumen, but the fish will still be dead and gone for generations.

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