Nfld. & Labrador

Come By Chance oil refinery plans to increase capacity: N.L. government briefing notes

The owners of the Come by Chance oil refinery plan to increase capacity at the facility next month, according to briefing materials prepared for Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball earlier this year.

Environmental site assessment of pre-existing liabilities assumed by province is behind schedule

The refinery at Come By Chance is pictured in an undated file image. (CBC)

The owners of the Come By Chance oil refinery plan to increase capacity at the facility next month, according to briefing materials prepared for Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball earlier this year and obtained by CBC News through access to information.

"Refinery officials are planning a 28-day crude unit management program in September 2016 to recertify equipment and increase crude oil throughput capacity from 115,000 barrels per day to 130,000 barrels per day," the briefing note, dated May 6, advises.

It's not clear whether the work is proceeding, what the capacity increase could mean for the refinery, or how much it would cost.

Gloria Warren-Slade, communications manager for NARL Refining LP, said in email to CBC News that the company does not discuss details of refinery operations with the media.

The process of completing and analyzing the extent of any physical contamination is continuing.- Siobhan Coady

According to government briefing notes, NARL "generates significant benefits for the people of the province."

That includes an estimated 450 full-time and 35 part-time jobs directly at the refinery, plus an additional 47 workers in marketing and 114 employees at its Orange Store retail outlets.

The premier was scheduled to meet with refinery officials on May 9.

According to government briefing notes, NARL requested the sit-down "to highlight the company's business and discuss refinery challenges and opportunities."

Status of environmental indemnity

One of the issues flagged by government officials was the status of an ongoing environmental site assessment at the refinery.

Two years ago, SilverRange Financial Partners of New York announced the acquisition of Come by Chance and all other assets of North Atlantic Refining Limited.

When the SilverRange deal was announced in September 2014, the province agreed to provide an indemnity for pre-existing environmental liabilities at the refinery.

It covers contamination and remediation liabilities relating to soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water at the refinery site, and was a key component in the deal going through.

An environmental site assessment will "define the extent of the province's indemnity," and provide an estimate on any potential remediation costs that will be borne by taxpayers.

But that assessment is behind schedule, according to government briefing materials.

'Continuing' process

The work was supposed to be done by November 2015. That date was then pushed back to the end of April 2016.

Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady says it's a "continuing" process. (CBC)

NARL's Warren-Slade indicated that a draft environmental site assessment document is now with the government.

In a prepared statement, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady acknowledged the delays.

"The process of completing and analyzing the extent of any physical contamination is continuing," Coady noted.

She said the report will be released to the public when finalized.

Coady added that "the new owners have been investing in the refinery and improving operations to support continued operations, employment, and economic benefits in the province."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Antle

CBC News

Rob Antle is producer for CBC's investigative unit in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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