What’s worse: Too a lot oil, or an excessive amount of gasoline? The authorities of Alberta, weighing the potential of a brand new refinery for the province, could also be on its strategy to discovering out.

In 2018, surging crude manufacturing within the Canadian province bumped into restricted area on export pipelines, creating bottlenecks and sending the worth of native oil to document lows relative to world benchmarks. Now Premier Rachel Notley’s authorities desires to see if protecting extra of the oil at residence with a brand new refinery will make a distinction.

On Dec. 11, the federal government reported it was surveying non-public corporations about constructing a brand new refinery. The objective: Free up area for crude on native pipelines by turning extra of it into higher-value fuels akin to gasoline and diesel. Analysts, although, say present refineries within the province already produce extra refined gasoline than is required.

“Its not so much completely different than the difficulty they’ve with crude,” Jason Parent, V.P. of consulting at Kent Group Ltd, a downstream consultancy primarily based in London, Ontario. “You nonetheless must ship that product to market.”


The province will settle for submissions for refinery proposals till Feb. eight and can contemplate greenfield tasks and expansions at present websites. At this level, the federal government is just searching for a way of the tasks corporations could also be contemplating and isn’t but able to say how it will help these plans.

Heavy Western Canadian Select, the kind of crude produced in Alberta, fell to a $50 a barrel low cost to West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark. The state of affairs grew to become so acute that Alberta’s authorities introduced a compulsory, province-wide eight.7% manufacturing reduce to maintain costs from falling additional.

New oil export pipeline tasks — together with TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL, and the enlargement of the Trans Mountain pipeline to the Vancouver space — have confronted environmental opposition and court-imposed delays. Even Enbridge Inc.’s Line three enlargement, permitted and scheduled to start out operation within the second half of this yr, is going through authorized challenges from opponents.

While constructing extra refining capability within the province would cut back the glut of crude oil, the province’s 5 present refineries already produce extra refined fuels — together with gasoline, diesel and jet gasoline — than is required. And, as with crude oil, pipeline hyperlinks for refined merchandise to markets exterior Alberta are restricted.

The 300,000-bopd Trans Mountain line transported 42,000 bpd of fuels to the Vancouver space to be used by drivers in British Columbia. Enbridge’s Line 1 strikes gasoline and diesel from Edmonton, Alberta, to 3rd events in Gretna, Manitoba, however none to the U.S.

Alberta is already residence to Canada’s latest refinery. The North West Redwater Partnership’s Sturgeon plant, which opened in 2018, produces 40,000 bopd of diesel in addition to vacuum gasoil and propane and butane. But that venture solely got here to fruition with authorities loans and a dedication by Alberta to course of 37,500 bopd of royalty bitumen on the plant for a toll that helps cowl building prices, which have greater than doubled because the venture was first proposed to $7.2 billion (C$9.7 billion) as of final yr.

Building refineries in Alberta isn’t low cost. A single 100,000 bopd plant would price between $6.9 billion and $eight.6 billion versus $2.9 billion to $three.6 billion in south China, IHS Markit mentioned in a 2017 report.

At the identical time, a brand new refinery would compete in a North American market the place gasoline demand is flat or declining, and the place refineries constructed many years in the past are already supplying native markets with the gasoline they want, in keeping with Kevin Birn, IHS Markit’s director of North American crude oil markets.

“More Alberta-based refining was a no brainer twenty or third years in the past,” mentioned Gil McGowan, president of Alberta Federation of Labor and a supporter of constructing extra refining capability in Alberta. “The economics are more difficult now.” A brand new refinery must deal with exports, in all probability to Asia, he mentioned.

Refineries would release some area on…

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