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

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.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Northern Health announced on Dec. 1 holiday changes to the medical travel bus schedule for December and January 2021. (Photo: supplied)
Holiday schedule changes for Northern Health Connections bus

N.H. announces transportation time changes from Prince Rupert to Prince George

A Water Quality Advisory is still in affect on Dec. 1 in Prince Rupert after being in place for a month. (Black Press file photo)
Water Quality Advisory still in place for Prince Rupert

High turbidity is creating risky drinking water in Prince Rupert

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Most Read