West Coast Olefins CEO Ken James on Victoria Harbour, Oct. 25, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

New B.C. petrochemical industry player in the making

West Coast Olefins wants to add value to natural gas liquids

As B.C. and Alberta’s natural gas industry reaches out to international markets through LNG exports from the North Coast, a related petrochemical business is aiming for the fast-growing Asia market.

Calgary-based West Coast Olefins Ltd. has applied to B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office for an ethylene plant to operate on industrial land at Prince George. The $5.6 billion project would share the site with a partner to convert ethylene into polyethylene pellets for export to Asia. Its feedstock is natural gas liquids produced from the Montney shale that extends from northeast B.C. into northwest Alberta.

West Coast CEO Ken James says the site is the best production point in North America because of its access to a long-established gas pipeline that serves Metro Vancouver, a long frontage on the CN Rail line to the main export outlet, the Port of Prince Rupert, and shore access to the Fraser River. The operation needs up to 1,000 employees in a region where the forest industry is in a deep slump.

During a business trip to Victoria, James spoke with Black Press reporter Tom Fletcher about the project:

TF: What makes B.C.’s Northern Interior a good place for this project?

KJ: One of the primary drivers was I wanted an existing pipeline and not needing a new one. We’ve seen projects fail on needing a new pipeline, and we avoided that.

TF: Have there been other projects like this proposed?

KJ: There are none in Prince George, but there is an existing natural gas line that runs all the way down past Prince George to Vancouver. Nobody’s been taking the liquids out. You’ve got an existing line with liquids in it, and as the price of gas has gone down, the producers are focused on the liquid-rich gas, so the content is actually going up.

TF: That’s the Montney shale that extends from northeast B.C. into Alberta.

KJ: Yes. The Horn River shale [farther north] is dry gas, so nobody’s developing it. The Montney’s liquid-rich, so everybody’s developing that.

TF: Is this related to the LNG projects that we’re seeing come forward?

KJ: No, it’s using the existing gas line that’s been operational for 60 years. We’re not doing new production, we’re taking more value out of existing production.

TF: There’s a light oil refinery in Prince George. [Husky Energy recently sold the small low-sulphur diesel and gasoline producer to Tidewater Midstream for $215 million.] Is that related to your project? Do they compete with you?

KJ: We’re going to have about 20 per cent condensate that we’ll extract from the pipeline. We’ll be complementary. I’ve already met with them, and their CEO actually invested in my last company.

TF: What was your last company?

KJ: Nauticol Energy, a methanol project in Grand Prairie, Alberta that’s in development right now. It has some financial support from the Alberta government.

RELATED: $5.6B petrochemical, plastics plant proposed at Prince George

RELATED: Ottawa pledges $153M investment in Port of Prince Rupert

TF: With West Coast Olefins, there’s an issue with Enbridge, which runs the pipeline you’re proposing to use. Can you explain that?

KJ: They’re proposing to do an equivalent straddle plant to take the liquids out at Chetwynd. They would use a 150 km pipeline and taking it back to Taylor, where they have liquids lines that would take it back to Fort Saskatchewan [site of Alberta’s new Sturgeon refinery]. That would kill our project.

TF: What would West Coast Olefins produce?

KJ: We’re going to make ethane into ethylene. There is an opportunity to turn the propane to propylene as well. They’re made into polyethylene and polypropylene. We are going to have a third party that will take that step, in Prince George. The market’s going to be Asia, not the U.S., so would you rather have it in Prince George or Edmonton?

TF: You have acquired a 300-acre site?

KJ: Yes. It’s already industrial land, beside the B.C. Industrial Park. It’s fee-simple land, which makes it a lot less complex, rather than touching Crown land. We’ve got about a mile of frontage along the CN main line, and our property goes right up to the Fraser River. We have the Fraser, the rail, the road, a population of 80,000 people, and the Enbridge pipeline runs 10 km from our site.

TF: And they have a competing project.

KJ: Yes. Their application is also in the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The Enbridge pipeline is a nationally regulated pipeline, because it crosses the border into Washington, Oregon etc. When an owner of a nationally regulated pipeline proposes a project on that, they automatically force their project into the national regulatory process, so their application is in the wrong regulatory body. That wouldn’t apply to us, because we don’t own the pipeline.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Youth Discover the Trades coming up in February for SD27 students

Around 80 Grade 7 students will be getting hands-on trade experience at TRU

Brock Hoyer settles for fifth place in Snow BikeCross at X Games

The lakecity athlete rode hard but was fouled up by loose snow in the third lap

World Religion Day an inclusive, well-attended offering

“It was fabulous,” he said. “Last year’s turnout was decent. But this year was quite wonderful.”

New CCPL President Anton Dounts looks to offer support

It’s Literacy Week in Williams Lake and it marks the first one Anton Dounts has headed

Lakecity CAO and CFO demand RCMP billing changes, save Williams Lake $750K to $1 million

It’s been a matter of going over every invoice line by line, CAO said

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Coastal GasLink work camp in Vanderhoof gets approved by the ALC

The work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport was first rejected by the commission in October last year

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

B.C.’s oldest practising lawyer celebrates 100th birthday, shares advice

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Most Read