You may have noticed a lot of the city’s oil refineries have been shuttered or closed, and there is a new one opening up just north of the oilsands.
The new facility, located at the site of the old oil-by-rail refinery, is expected to be the largest refinery in Canada.
It’s also the only one that’s been fully converted into a gas-fired power plant.
The refinery’s owner, Alberta Power Generation, is already in talks with the federal government to convert the existing facility to a gas plant.
What’s new at the Calgary plant is that it will be producing about 300,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year.
It is also expected to become the first oil refinery in North America to run on liquefied natural gas.
The plant, operated by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., will be the first in Canada to be built as part of the $1.8-billion TransCanada Pipelines expansion project, which includes the construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, and will help expand the oilsand industry.
But it won’t be the only refinery in the area.
The facility is also the first of its kind in Canada that’s fully automated.
The automated refineries were introduced at two facilities in Alberta: the Royal Canmore refinery in Prince Albert, and the Enbridge refinery in Coquitlam, B.C. “The technology was there, we just didn’t have the equipment to operate it properly,” said James Wilson, CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator, which oversees the province’s oil-sands sector.
In 2014, Enbridge agreed to build a $1-billion facility in Alberta, which it’s using to produce natural gas and liquefy the oils.
It will be operated by Cenovus Energy Inc., the Canadian subsidiary of Enbridge.
“It’s very interesting to be able to see the technology being developed and the expertise being put into it,” Wilson said.
But the Alberta facility won’t have enough power to support the oilsanding industry as it works to meet its target of having enough electricity to operate the refinery at full capacity.
Alberta’s natural gas industry has also seen an influx of new energy projects, from a $2.2-billion project to build the country’s largest liquefaction plant in Lac-Megantic, Que., to a $5-billion plant in Port Arthur, Texas.
“If we were to open the oils and gas, we would have a large part of our economy that’s going to be dependent on that industry,” Wilson told CBC News.
“That’s a pretty serious issue.”
As the oils-and-gas industry continues to struggle with low prices, Alberta’s government is looking to the new technology as an alternative to traditional energy sources.
“This technology, the technology is coming to the table.
It has to be viable and it has to make sense for the environment,” Wilson explained.
He said the industry’s needs for a power plant that can handle the emissions of the process that creates oil and natural gas are different than the needs of the industry that is producing gasoline or diesel.
“You’re in the refining business, and you’re making money, and it’s all about the profit margins,” he said.
The Alberta government is working with the industry to find the best way to develop the technology and help build the new facility.
The project will also provide a boost to the province in terms of jobs and investment in Alberta’s economy.
“I think this is the future for Alberta,” Wilson concluded.
“We can see more projects opening up and more jobs coming.”