Activity in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland will likely drop this year as major construction winds down, but with new projects looming the future looks bright, chair Ed Gibbons says.
The Sturgeon refinery, which employed about 7,500 people at its peak in December, has shed up to 2,000 jobs as work is completed, while at least three other plants were finished last year, according to information presented Thursday at the group’s annual lunch.
“We’re going to have a lot of tradespeople looking for work. We need (the refinery’s) phase 2,” Gibbons said.
“We’re not going to compare to 2015-16 for a few years to come.”
In one piece of good news for the association, Field Upgrading Ltd. announced it is moving from a pilot bitumen-cleaning plant opened last spring toward a 2,500-barrel-per-day demonstration facility in the industrial area northeast of Edmonton.
The aim is to produce low-sulphur marine fuel the industry will require by 2020 as it tries to reduce emissions — the 15 largest seagoing ships now produce as much sulphur oxide as all the cars in the world, Field commercialization manager Lisa Doig said.
The company will decide later this year whether to go ahead with the project, which officials estimated in 2016 would cost about $75 million.
Calgary’s Pembina Pipeline Corp. and Inter Pipeline are looking at spending about $7 billion to build propylene and polypropylene plastic plants, spurred by $500 million in provincial royalty credits.
Inter Pipeline is expected to conclude whether to go ahead with its project in May, while Pembina says it will decide by mid-2018.
These plans and projects under consideration by other companies have Gibbons optimistic the Industrial Heartland’s good times will continue.
“We need the two companies … to start the engineering to start the process,” he said.
“I hope that they’re approved soon.”
Ian MacGregor, chief executive of Sturgeon refinery developer North West Refining, said he’d like to hear this year whether the province will supply bitumen to the second phase as it will for the first phase so the plant can be expanded.
“We have a really big worry about the economy here. We had 7,000 people out there before Christmas … I want to get 7,000 people back.”
The refinery is described as the world’s first to incorporate carbon capture from the beginning.
Mark Eramo, Houston-based vice-president of global chemical business development for research firm IHS Markit, said new U.S. President Donald Trump should remember the continent is one market if he tries to change the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Eramo thinks the current trade deal works well.
“There’s pipelines that flow back and forth, there’s energy that flows back and forth, there’s a lot of product that goes back and forth — a lot of American companies are invested up here.”
Written By Gordon Kent