Enbridge Northern Gateway said it could support a plan by David Black to built a refinery near Kitimat, but needs to see the full proposal first.
Enbridge vice-president for western access Janet Holder said if Black can show he's got both oil sand suppliers and offshore buyers on board, the pipeline company will be able to get behind the plan which could create thousands of jobs and make the pipeline more palatable to a skeptical public.
"I know David Black believes he's very close to that and once we've actually seen a proposal, if it does make sense economically for Canada or British Columbia we would support it," Holder said.
Black spoke the media in Vancouver on Wednesday to provide more details on a plan called Kitimat Clean he initially floated last year. He originally said his plan could compliment the $6.5 billion Northern Gateway project which aims to ship diluted bitumen from northern Alberta to Kitimat for export. Now Black is talking about constructing his own pipeline.
If Black and Northern Gateway were to join forces, the pipeline as proposed wouldn't need to change very much. Holder said other than some revisions in the terminal area, Northern Gateway would stay pretty much unchanged.
"I do talk to David Black and I understand what he's trying to do," she said. "I understand why B.C. wants to support a refinery. That does not impact on us, we will manage whatever products we need to manage."
Black's plan would cost $25 billion to pull off and could generate upwards of 3,000 permanent jobs and many more during the construction phase. The newspaper mogul said he's close to securing the financing for the project.
How solid is it? I would say it's 100 per cent because in this case, the financiers are very anxious to help get the refined fuels from Canada, Black said in a speech to the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. I'm sure we'll get through to the finish, I'm sure that money will be there.
According to a poll by Mustal Group on behalf of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, 52 per cent of respondents who were given information on Kitimat Clean said they were in favour of the project versus 39 per cent who said they oppose it. If an environmentally sound way of shipping the bitumen were found, support would jump to 66 per cent according to the poll.
Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance spokeswoman Sonja Ostertag said her group disagrees with the premise that a safe way to ship the product could be found.
"The whole proposition is dangerous from start to finish and there's no way to make it safe," she said.
The poll, conducted between Feb. 18-24, asked 800 British Columbians about the refinery and is considered accurate plus or minus 3.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.
Like the majority of respondents, Ostertag supports the idea of refining Canadian bitumen at home, rather than shipping the raw product to foreign markets but she believes it should be done closer to where it's extracted.
"I definitely think it's a good idea that we add value to the bitumen coming out of the tarsands. That part makes sense," she said. "But to put a refinery in Kitimat or in the area around Kitimat makes absolutely no sense.
"It doesn't reduce the risk of transporting bitumen products across northern B.C., it doesn't reduce tankers in the northwest coastal waters of B.C., so it really doesn't resolve any problems with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project."
- With files from the Canadian Press