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Skepticism won't alter premier's optimism about LNG

Premier Christy Clark was in Kelowna Wednesday to announce $100,000 in provincial money for the upcoming Skate Canada International event, slated for Kelowna
Premier Christy Clark was in Kelowna Wednesday to announce $100,000 in provincial money for the upcoming Skate Canada International event, slated for Kelowna's Prospera Place this fall.
— image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

On Tuesday, the man behind a proposal to build a multi-billion dollar oil refinery and pipeline in northern B.C. expressed scepticism about the future of this province’s vaunted proposed liquified natural gas industry.

David Black said he felt there was a good chance the LNG industry Premier Christy Clark is currently touting will not happen, in part because LNG is “just a bet on the price of natural gas.”

On Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark responded. And she said if Black is sceptical, it’s news to her.

“If he’s sceptical, that has not been my impression,” said Clark when asked about Black’s comments. “Even if he is, I know he will be delighted when we are successful with this.”

She said she expects at least three of the 10 possible LNG plant proposals to materialize.

The Victoria-based newspaper magnate, whose Black Press empire owns this newspaper as well as more than 60 other community newspapers across B.C., spoke to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce earlier this week and explained his Kitimat Clean oil refinery proposal.

The $325-billion refinery would take diluted bitumen piped in from Alberta’s oilsands and refine it into gasoline and diesel before using its own tankers to ship the refined products to markets in China. The total cost of the refinery, pipeline and tanker fleet would be about $32 billion, he said. And he has already lined up a major financier from China but needs the federal government to put up guarantees of $10 billion.

Black said the proposal would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, generate millions in tax revenue and economic impact and be far more environmentally friendly than allowing unrefined diluted bitumen to be piped directly to tankers in Kitimat and sent to China.

While a majority of British Columbians are opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that would do the latter, he said that number turns completely around when you add in a B.C. refinery.

During his chamber address, Black said while he hopes LNG plants do open in B.C., he is doubtful, particularly about two currently proposed for the Kitimat area, where his refinery would be located.

Following the luncheon he said: “It’ll be great for (B.C.) if we can do it but when it comes to LNG, I’m from Missouri,” alluding to the U.S. state nicknamed the “show-me” state because of a history of scepticism among its residents.

When asked about Black’s comments on Wednesday during a stop in Kelowna, Clark said while the 10 potential LNG proposals by Fortune 500 companies will likely not materialize, if five do it would far exceed her expectations.

“My expectation is three will go ahead out of the 10, and it could be more, we just don’t know, those are private sector decisions,” said Clark.

“I think he’s right,” she added. “Not all 10 will go ahead. But we are getting very close to some finalized agreements this year with some companies.”

On Wednesday, Black told the chamber of commerce luncheon his Kitimat Clean refinery, pipeline and tanker fleet proposal is “hugely” supported by Clark’s government, albeit in a quiet way. He said the governing Liberals have chosen to not speak about it unless the NDP Opposition brings it up, and they haven’t.

Meanwhile, Black said he is continuing to meet with people in northern B.C. as well as in Alberta and hopes to let some contracts for preliminary work as early next week.

Clark was at Prospera Place to pledge $100,000 from the province to help the upcoming Skate Canada event to be held at the arena in the fall.

The event draws world-class skaters from countries around the world and attracts millions of viewers as it is broadcast on television.

She said last year when the event was held in New Brunswick, it generated $4 million alone for the local economy.

 

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