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

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read