Black touts 'safer' oil-by-rail plan for B.C. refinery

Victoria businessman David Black spoke to Rotarians in South Surrey Nov. 18 about his proposal for an oil refinery in northwestern B.C. - Tracy Holmes / Black Press
Victoria businessman David Black spoke to Rotarians in South Surrey Nov. 18 about his proposal for
an oil refinery in northwestern B.C.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes / Black Press
On Wednesday evening, November 18, David Black gave a presentation on "Why an Oil Refinery in Kitimat would be good for B C and Canada" to 85 members and friends of the five Rotary clubs in South Surrey/White Rock. The event was organized by two of David Black's UBC 1969 Civil Engineering classmates, John Ritchie from the Rotary Club of White Rock and Sandy Wightman from the Semiahmoo Rotary Club.
David Black received a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1969 and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario. In 1974 he accepted an analyst's position with the Toronto Star. His first newspaper acquisition was his father's Williams Lake B C Tribune followed some time later by the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal. He is now Canada's largest private publisher with over 120 publications in B.C., Alberta, Washington State, Hawaii, San Francisco, and Akron Ohio. David is a past president of the Williams Lake Rotary Club.
Since 2012 David Black has been doing environmental , engineering, and financial feasibility studies as well as holding discussions with Federal, Provincial, and Municipal politicians  , First Nations , industry, and communities . His family supports his goal of enabling this refinery provided it is the greenest in the world. He has considered various technologies and has decided on a modern version of the Fischer and Tropsch technology to form the basis of his design. This is the same, although modernized, technology that Germany during WW2 and South Africa during apartheid used to make petrochemical fuels from coal.
Alberta oil sands contain an excess amount of carbon which in conventional heavy crude oil refineries is left over as a coking byproduct . It is "dirty" and cannot be burned as coking in North America for steel making because  of its excessive carbon footprint. By injecting hydrogen into the Fischer and Tropsch refining process the excess carbon can be combined with hydrogen and made into diesel fuel leaving no carbon byproduct. There is no waste water  in the process discharging into waterways. Virtually no new oil refineries have been built world wide in the past 30 years and this one would be able to use the newest refining and environmental technologies. The fuels from this proposed Kitimat refinery will leave the refinery with an aggregate, including the oil sands extraction process, carbon footprint some 20% less than refineries of "cleaner" crude oils. The refinery will be slightly exothermic enabling some electrical energy to be introduced into the electrical. The cost of building the refinery is estimated at $22 billion including $5,billion to be green , but worth every penny!
Although David Black's initial thoughts were to use the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to get the diluted oil sands bitumen (dibit) to the refinery he has radically changed his mind to rail for a combination of reasons . The railway exists and need no approval process. He shared the environmental concerns of northern communities about a potential pipeline spill even though modern technology makes that remote. Spilled distillate and bitumen would be an environmental disaster on water surfaces and subsurfaces and wildlife and fauna therein. He will use a technology that loads preheated 60 degree Celsius bitumen, with no distillate, directly into specialized rail tanker cars equipped with interior heating coils. In a relatively short time the bitumen cools and changes from a fluid to a cheddar cheese type consistency. The bitumen is unloaded at the refinery by simply injecting steam into the coils until a 60C temperature is reached and it flows out of the rail cars. The "cheese" consistency bitumen has a very high flash point making it difficult to ignite. It bears no resemblance to the flamable Baken crude in the Lac-Megantic Quebec disaster. In the unlikely event of a derailment incident the bitumen "cheese" would remain in  derailed car containers with minimal environmental risks even if the derailed cars we in water.
The refinery would generate about 2500 full time well paying jobs jobs -more employment that all the proposed LNG plants combined. Additional a refinery typically attracts other petrochemical byproduct industries which creat a similar number of jobs. Only refined and not crude products will be shipped by tankers offshore. The refinery is economically feasible, will generate a major source of tax revenue for provincial and federal governments, and Canada and Alberta will gain a much needed green gateway to world markets for our petroleum industries.  Furthermore, it would eliminate the environmentally risky shipment of dilbit by tanker, while adding economic value to Canada .
Needless to say the meeting attendees were extremely interested in what David had to say. He spoke without notes for an hour followed by a 45 minute question period. To learn more simply google him .
John Ritchie, White Rock Rotary
Sandy Wightman, Semiahmoo Rotary