Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
October 2020

Vol. 25, No.42 Week of October 18, 2020

Irving Oil said to have abandoned plans for Newfoundland refinery

Gary Park

for Petroleum News

There are those who think it’s time to re-label Newfoundland’s Come By Chance refinery to Come By Slim/No Chance.

In its 47-year history the facility, which has the capacity to process 135,000 barrels per day of crude, has experienced a wild roller-coaster existence.

And that history shows no signs of turning around, despite a major boost in May when Irving Oil announced its intention to buy North Atlantic Refining, the operating company, from the United States investment firm Silverpeak and reopen the refinery.

Siobahn Coady, at that time Newfoundland’s Natural Resources Minister and now Finance Minister, said she had been assured by Irving that Come By Chance would be a big part of Irving’s future as owner of a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada’s largest crude processing facility at 360,000 bpd.

“Their intent is to ramp back up to full operation,” she said.

Privately owned Irving said it had “proudly served the people of Newfoundland and Labrador since 1950, providing a secure supply of energy to its customers across the province” and intended to extend that role.

It also raised hopes for crude producers in Western Canada saying it planned to buy feedstock from them and “contribute to our long-time objective of helping Canada be even more competitive in the international landscape.”

Deal collapses

Those high-flying goals lasted only until early October when sources told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that the deal to sell the refinery had collapsed and that the idled plant could close permanently.

Newfoundland Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons said Silverpeak was continuing to explore its options.

He said his government, which had relied on Come By Chance for 5% of its revenues, would give Silverpeak whatever support it could.

Frazer Russell, the mayor of Clarenville, a half-hour drive west of the refinery, said he was “shocked” by the developments, while observing that the weeks of silence since the Irving deal was announced had made local people uneasy.

“We’re all scrambling for information,” he said.

Facility opened in 1973

That has been the life story of the facility since it opened in 1973 under Shaheen Resources through a financing arrangement that forced two premiers out of office.

The refinery closed in 1976 after Shaheen went bankrupt. It was purchased and restarted by Petro-Canada in 1980.

In 1994, Vital Group acquired the refinery and launched North Atlantic Refining as the operating company.

Ownership was bought for C$1.6 billion in 2006 by Harvest Energy Trust, which survived for only three years when the reins were turned over to Korea National Oil Corp.

Irving Oil wasn’t the only company to express interest in the refinery. In a June letter to Coady, U.S.-based Origin International said it intended to pursue a deal, insisting it was ready to resume its bid for North Atlantic Refining, but has not been available for comment since then.

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