Refining Alberta Proposals worth $25-billion or more could transform an area east of Edmonton into a refinery hub that rivals those along the Gulf Coast of Texas
Jon Harding, Financial Post Published: Saturday, March 11, 2006 FORT SASKATCHEWAN, ALTA. - Larry Wall's most important sales meetings in the past six months have been held in his car as it criss-crosses the rural highways east of Edmonton.
The executive director of Alberta's Industrial Heartland, an association of local communities and businesses, has set a frantic pace, conducting tours for dozens of visiting delegations from the United States, Asia and Europe.
Mr. Wall's job is to sell a giant swath of prairie just east of the Alberta capital that over the next half-decade is expected to rival the largest oil-refining hubs along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
In fact, proposals for heavy-duty, refinery-type development have surfaced so quickly here local residents have been caught by surprise.
As Connie Tchir, Mayor of Redwater, the tiny town that sits just outside the Heartland's northern boundary, puts it: "We've been taking a lot of deep breaths around here for the last few months."
So far, four massive new private-sector oil-processing complexes are set to be built in a 330-square-kilometre hub that will serve as a conduit for soaring oilsands production. In addition, a major add-on to an existing refinery-upgrading-petrochemical complex owned xby Shell Canada Ltd. is underway. There are also two other proposals -- one from the Alberta government, the other by Total SA -- that could join the rush.
The four projects plus Shell's will pump $25-billion worth of industrial development into the region during the next five to seven years, while the two other proposals could up the total by $17-billion.
The scale of the plans and aggressive timelines are daunting. Looking only at the required workforce, the number of skilled tradespeople needed when construction peaks after the decade turns is projected to be a staggering 16,000 to 20,000.