West Coast Olefins eyeing Summit Lake, Bear Lake sites

West Coast Olefins has identified two potential sites near Summit Lake, and two others near Bear Lake, for its proposed $5.6 billion petrochemical complex.

In a live-streamed presentation to McLeod Lake Indian Band members on Thursday, West Coast Olefins president and CEO Ken James and band representative Terry Kuzma briefed members about the project.

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"I see this this as the first step of starting the dialog," James said. "We are trying to get collaboratively ahead, before we start the regulatory process."

Slides made available to McLeod Lake members through Facebook show the two proposed complex sites near Summit Lake, approximately 50 kilometres north of the city. Two other locations near Bear Lake are under consideration, Kuzma said.

The company had initially planned to build the complex at a 300-acre site in the BCR Industrial Site, but after public concerns about air quality were raised the company announced earlier this month it will look locate north of the city instead.

The sites are close to the Enbridge West Coast natural gas pipeline that will provide the feedstock for the plants. The three-part project is expected to include an ethylene plant, ethylene derivatives plant and a natural gas recovery system and produce about one million tonnes per year of polymer-grade ethylene. The majority of that would be used in the adjacent ethylene derivatives plant to produce polyethylene – plastic pellets – and possibly mono-ethylene glycol to be used as antifreeze and heat transfer fluid.

"The pipeline was there, but if you noticed the rail line, the highway and the BC Hydro lines are all through there," James said.

A project like West Coast Olefin's needs access to affordable feedstock, water for cooling towers, power for the compressors and access to Asian markets to succeed, James said. The locations they are looking at meet all of those needs, he said.

The plants would have an approximately 100-acre footprint, and occupy a 300-acre site to allow for setbacks, James said.

The Summit Lake locations are preferable from a business logistics point of view because they are closer to Prince George, Kuzma said.

"From a McLeod Lake perspective, I don't think there's been a green-light on any of the four sites. These sites have not been vetted through the McLeod Lake lands department," Kuzma said. "One of the key milestones will be site selection."

The band's negotiations with the company are subject to a non-disclosure agreement, Kuzma said, but any agreement would include an equity stake for the band and employment opportunities for band companies and members.

"We're very passionate about the Duz Cho group of companies. We have the know-how, we can do the work," Kuzma said. "We want to be part of the front-end of this project."

According to West Coast Olefin's application to the EAO, the first phase of the development would cost about $2.8 billion and create 2,000 to 3,000 jobs during construction from 2021 to 2023. Once complete, the ethylene plant would employ 140 to 180 people directly, and 25 to 50 additional contract employees.

Once all three phases of the complex are complete, they are expected to employ approximately 1,000 people.

James said he expects the majority of the workforce, both during construction and operation of the plant, will come from Prince George.

"The best, most stable workforce is you train the local people. Their families are here," James said. "(At Nova Chemical's Red Deer plant) the farmers we trained to run a petrochemical plant, they stayed for 40 years."

James did not return calls from the Citizen on Friday to provide any further detail about the locations considered.

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