China's largest bank will be helping to finance the proposed Kitimat refinery, which would process oil from the Alberta oilsands in B.C., instead of the raw bitumen being shipped overseas.
B.C. media mogul David Black said he has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) for the proposed refinery that is estimated to cost $25 billion.
Black, who was in Beijing on Thursday, did not say how much money ICBC will provide, only that the bank has expressed interest in loaning money to the enterprise, functioning as a co-ordinator to get other banks involved, and providing engineering and construction help to build the refinery.
"They’re very interested. There’s a lot in this for China and there’s a lot in this for Canada and B.C.," Black told CBC News. "This is a non-binding letter of intent. There’s lots of negotiating to do, lots of fleshing out for the agreement. But I am very sure that we’ll get there."
Black said more memorandums of understanding are anticipated between Chinese companies and his company, Kitimat Clean.
The Kitimat refinery — which should have the capacity to process the entire output of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline — will create 3,000 full-time jobs, 6,000 temporary jobs and generate large tax revenues for the government, Black said.
Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan told CBC News she hopes the deal with ICBC goes through.
"You know once it's built, it's 2,000 to 3,000 permanent jobs at really good rates," she said. "I think we have to take a really good look at it."
The refinery plans to use a newly-patented "cleaner" approach to processing heavy oil. The Fischer-Tropsch process is said to decrease greenhouse gases per barrel by 50 per cent.
In addition to the refinery, the project will include a possible pipeline between Edmonton and Kitimat, a marine terminal, and a fleet of oceangoing tankers for the refined fuels..
"We're on our way to something that’s going to fabulous for Canada and B.C. and we will reduce environmental difficulties for the planet," Black said. "We’re hopefully going to reduce the greenhouse gases by half compared to any other refinery in the world."
A political issue?
The refinery is being planned on a 3,000 hectare parcel of Crown land near DuBose, B.C., that is zoned for industrial use.
The DuBose site is 25 kilometres north of Kitimat, 25 kilometres south of Terrace, and would be approximately 40 kilometres from a pipeline from a planned Enbridge marine terminal on the Douglas Channel.
Environmental groups and members of Canada's First Nations have expressed concern about a pipeline moving crude oil across ecologically sensitive northern B.C.
In March, Premier Christy Clark said she was in favour of the plan, while the B.C. NDP has repeatedly cast doubt on Black's ability to finance the project.
With the Liberals and NDP now in the thick of campaigning for the provincial election in May, the proposed refinery remains a sensitive topic.
While the refinery would mean the creation of a lot of new jobs, it also would involve an oil pipeline — something both parties have been trying to distance themselves from.
On Thursday, Black said he hoped the issue wouldn't become a political one.
"There's so much in this for B.C. I don't think we should let politics get in the way of this," he said.