June 25, 2014

Greenest Refinery for Processing Bitumen & More Jobs


Despite last week's approval from the Canadian government, uncertainty still dogs Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline largely because of a vow from key aboriginal communities to block it.
Others in the oil industry are trying hard to avoid the mistakes Enbridge made when it comes to approaching Canada's powerful First Nations about projects that could contaminate their lands and waterways.
Pacific Future Energy Corp.'s recent refinery proposal is the latest example.

Earlier this month, the company unveiled plans for a $10 billion refinery in British Columbia that would convert Alberta's tar sands bitumen into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for export to Asia and other markets. Pacific Future Energy pledged to form a "full partnership" with affected First Nations, provide permanent jobs and build the "greenest refinery in the world."

Enbridge's struggle to win acceptance for the Northern Gateway project "is a lesson in terms of how not to engage with First Nations," said Jeffrey Copenace, vice president of indigenous partnership for Pacific Future Energy. "The First Nations have been viewed as an impediment to business, historically in this country, both by governments and industry, and we feel that’s wrong."

Two other companies, Kitimat Clean Ltd. and Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, have announced bitumen refining projects and taken steps to curry favor with British Columbia's indigenous groups. They have also promised jobs and less environmental risk compared to Northern Gateway's export plan.

"They're all trying to build themselves on the backs of how bad Northern Gateway has done things, and they figure if they are a little bit better that somehow people are going to fall all over themselves," said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, a coalition opposed to the Northern Gateway project. "They're all doing exactly the same thing. They're saying pick me, pick me, pick me. The reality is nobody's picking anybody."

The $7 billion Northern Gateway pipeline, which was approved by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 16, would transport diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Alberta to a proposed marine terminal on the northern coast of British Columbia. There, the dilbit would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to overseas markets.

That last part of the plan—carrying dilbit out to sea through fragile areas vital to First Nations' marine economy—became particularly controversial after an Enbridge pipeline leaked a million gallons of dilbit into a Michigan river. The 2010 incident alarmed British Columbians because emergency crews couldn't contain the spill and Enbridge has yet to fully cleanse the river of sunken globules of bitumen.

Backers of all three of the refinery projects have touted their proposals as environmentally less risky because they eliminate the need for tankers full of dilbit by converting it to fuel or light crude oil before exporting it. Pacific Future Energy would be filling export tankers with refined fuels, and those liquids would evaporate if spilled into the ocean, according to Samer Salameh, the company's executive chairman. Because of that, Salameh told Huffpost Alberta, the company's proposed refinery "is a solution to everybody's problem."
"We cannot risk the future of British Columbia’s cherished coast by shipping raw bitumen," Salameh said in Pacific Future Energy's June 10 announcement. Salameh believes it's in Canada's national interest to get Alberta's oil riches into international markets, but he said "it shouldn't be done at the sacrifice of B.C.'s coast or broader environment, and must be done in full partnership with First Nations."

Sterritt isn't convinced. Pacific Future Energy would still need to feed its coastal refinery with dilbit, which means it will eventually need a pipeline such as the Northern Gateway to deliver the heavy crude from Alberta.

"The one thing that most of these people seem to forget is that it's not just about the coast, it's also about transporting bitumen through the headwaters of the Fraser and the Mackenzie and the Skeena [rivers], and there are no guarantees of being able to avoid a spill there," Sterritt said.

Environmentalists concerned about climate change aren't likely to applaud the refinery plans, either, because they don't halt or reduce the carbon pollution that stems from extracting the tar sands oil, processing it and then burning the fuel derived from it.

"From a climate point of view, these refineries don't really make a lot of difference...as soon as more of that oil starts to get shipped [from Alberta], we have increased emissions," said Josha MacNab, director of British Columbia for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank based in Calgary. Switching from dilbit tankers to fuel-laden tankers isn’t a big improvement, she added, "Because any spill of any kind of fossil fuel is going to have a very damaging impact on our environment, and our ability to clean those up is questionable."

But the companies behind the refining proposals are optimistic. They believe they've found a way to boost support and quell environmental opposition to exporting Canada’s oil riches through British Columbia.
Their plans stress three factors that they say will differentiate the refinery projects from the Northern Gateway pipeline and export project. Those include:

+ A better relationship with First Nations. As Pacific Future Energy's Copenace put it, "I've heard of previous negotiations where companies go in with, 'this is your stake, and this is your percentage, these are your jobs, this is our route, and that’s how we’re going to do it—so sign here. That’s unacceptable in this day and age." Copenace has First Nations roots and served as deputy chief of staff to former Assembly of First Nations chief Shawn Atleo.

Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, which announced a multifaceted export plan with a refinery in April 2014, is led by Calvin Helin, an author, businessman and First Nations leader in British Columbia. Partners include the B.C.-based Aquilini Group and David Tuccaro, a well-known Alberta aboriginal entrepreneur and oil sands investor.

+ More jobs. Pacific Future Energy said initial employment at its refinery would be in the hundreds, but that the payroll would grow to 3,000 jobs once it's expanded to its target capacity. Kitimat Clean’s project, which is backed by B.C. businessman and newspaper owner David Black, includes a $21 billion refinery, plus an oil pipeline, gas pipeline and tanker fleet. It said it would create 3,000 jobs at the refinery alone.
+ More palatable environmental characteristics. Pacific Future Energy said its refinery would capture carbon emissions and employ technologies to make the plant have near-zero net carbon emissions. Kitimat has touted its refinery as "engineered to be the cleanest upgrading and refining site in the world."

Eagle Spirit Energy's plan attempts to lessen the environmental threat of a dilbit spill by converting the bitumen into light crude oil before sending it to the coast for export.

Pacific Future Energy and Kitimat will still need to transport dilbit from Alberta to their respective refineries, but last year, B.C. Premier Christy Clark applauded that approach. Exporting dilbit-derived fuel would require smaller tankers filled with liquid that evaporates when spilled, a concept that "radically reduces the environmental risks associated with the shipping of oil off our coast to Asia," she said.

By Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News
 Source- FirstPerspective

June 23, 2014

No Bitumen Road for Serengetti



The East African Court of Justice yesterday delivered a long awaited ruling on the case brought against the Tanzanian government by ANAW and others, seeking to restrain them permanently from building a highway across the Serengeti migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras.

The judges in their ruling said that the construction of a bitumen road across the UNESCO World Heritage Site national park is ‘unlawful’. Celebrations broke out in court and elsewhere across Eastern Africa and the rest of the world when the essence of the ruling became known, though seen at the bright light of day does the judgment have a downside.

The judged only ruled on the illegality of a bitumen or tarmac road but left the question open about the construction of a gravel road along the same route, something the Tanzanian government had said they were considering. ‘They can still try to build a murram road because that has not been specifically ruled out.
If they start, we shall sue them again and seek an injunction against that also. But primarily now we must lobby for the government to accept that the Southern route around the Serengeti will bring greater benefits for a larger number of people and the route is only slightly longer. Germany’s KFW, or so I heard, is doing a feasibility study now for the new route after the Tanzanian government has accepted the proposal and the World Bank and Germany have both offered to finance the highway as long as it routes around the southern tip of the park and not go across it.

Knowing our government however we must remain vigilant. Today was a victory of sorts but the battle for survival of the Serengeti continues. This is not over by a long shot’ wrote a regular Arusha based conservation source when relaying the court decision yesterday afternoon.

The news about the highway plans were broken here in early 2010 and then triggered a growing support movement which via social media and other avenues rallied support from the world’s leading conservationists, show biz personalities, business moguls and many governments and international organizations making their opposition known to these plans in both direct and indirect contact with Tanzania’s President Kikwete and members of his government.

 By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent 
Source- eturbonews

June 11, 2014

Bitumen Refinery

A Vancouver-based company with international backing is planning to build a $10 billion bitumen refinery project near Prince Rupert.

Pacific Future Energy says the new refinery will be “the world’s greenest” and will be built in full partnership with First Nations.

The company has already identified three sites, all in the Prince Rupert area, as potential locations for the refinery, which will process oil from northern Alberta. A feasibility study, which is currently underway, will determine the exact location of the refinery.

“We believe this is an incredibly unique opportunity to build the greenest refinery in the world and there’s no better place than BC,” said Samer Salameh, Executive Chairman of Pacific Future Energy in a statement. “Our pre-feasibility study has begun, which will analyze the economic, social and environmental aspects of the refinery and help to determine the prospective site and expect to launch our feasibility and regulatory process in the next 9-12 months.”

Shipping refined products as opposed to heavy oil will be much safer, according to Salameh.
“By shipping refined products, we will eliminate the threat of a heavy oil spill.”

In case of a spill, these products float on top of water and evaporate, according to Pacific Future Energy. Bitumen sinks in water, and is much harder to clean up.

The refinery is designed to be built in stages, with each “module” processing 200,000 barrels of bitumen per day. The bitumen will be converted into gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.

Once the project is fully up and running, it will be capable of producing up to 1 million barrels a day.
Pacific Future Energy says the project is viable regardless of the current market price of oil, because of its ability to produce a wide range of fuels.

The federal government’s decision on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is expected sometime this week.

Source - Globalnews

June 9, 2014

Bitumen to Batteries

Chinese bitumen producer Luxiang has proposed a new plan for its transformation, moving away from its bitumen business and foraying into new energy after its lithium mine reported further delays, Guangzhou's Money Week magazine reports.

Trading for Luxiang's shares listed in Shenzhen have been suspended since April 1 due to the ongoing restructuring of its assets. The company expects trading to resume before July 8, according to the latest statement released on May 7.

Luxiang came under the spotlight again after electric carmaker BYD announced a plan to issue new shares to fund the expansion of lithium-ion battery production, because of the association of the two companies, the magazine said.

Lu Xiangyang, Luxiang's second-largest shareholder, is a cousin of BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu, and Luxiang holds the rights to a top quality spodumene mine in Sichuan province, the magazine said.
Luxiang shares were bolstered by such connections following the company's acquisition of the mine in 2009, but the company has been hit by delays because of the local government's stalled efforts to expropriate land around the mine for expansion.

A Luxiang official handling investor relations recently told the magazine that the company is not working with BYD on any project, since the two are operating on two ends of the industry and Luxiang currently does not produce batteries, components for batteries or lithium salts.

An analyst also told the magazine that Luxiang is unlikely to see a positive impact from government incentives for development of new energy vehicles, which was behind the recent share price surge of companies expected to benefit from the policy.

On the other hand, Luxiang has made a series of announcements regarding its restructuring plan, including the acquisition of Dongguan Tec-Rich Engineering and a 51% stake in a natural gas company in Yulin in Shaanxi province.

Tec-Rich is a producer of equipment and lithium batteries, which will allow Luxiang to tap into the sector downstream, while natural gas fits the company's goal to move into the new energy business, according to Luxiang chairman Ke Rongqing.

The more surprising announcement was the company's sale of its bitumen subsidiary, which was made on May 12.

The sale marked Luxiang's exit from its 16-year-long core business of bitumen, which might lead to a difficult situation of losing an income source, while its mine has yet to generate revenue, the magazine said.
Whether investors would buy into Luxiang's latest restructuring plan after trading for its shares resumes remains uncertain, the magazine said.

Source -Want China Times