North West Refining is a private, Alberta-based company. In 2004 it was founded under the name, North West Upgrading, by a group of Albertans who shared a vision to create value-added products from bitumen in an environmentally sustainable manner.
After a decade of having to explain that North West Upgrading was building a refinery that produces high value finished products, and not an upgrader that makes bitumen into synthetic crude, the name of the company was changed to North West Refining in 2016.
North West Refining’s mission is to build a profitable bitumen refinery that makes refined products that set the world standard for low CO2 content and achieves the highest goals for sustainability wherever possible.
North West Refining was a 50 per cent owner in the North West Redwater Partnership. In July 2021, our interest in the Sturgeon Refinery was sold but we continue to support their mission. Canadian Natural Upgrading Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Limited, still owns 50 per cent of the Partnership.
The Partnership built and operates the Sturgeon Refinery, the first greenfield refinery to be built in Canada since 1984. It is also the world’s first refinery designed to capture CO2 process emissions from the outset.
It is no secret that Albertans and Canadians rely heavily on energy resource revenue. Our energy resources have, in large part, made possible the quality of life we enjoy. North West Refining believes our energy resources can continue to allow us to build a prosperous future for generations to come – but only if we do things differently. We have to exceed today’s requirements and set the high standards that the future will demand, particularly for greenhouse gases but really in every part of what we make and how we make it.
The oil sands have the world’s third largest proven reserves of oil. The bitumen they contain represents enormous economic potential for Alberta and Canada. To realize this potential we have to solve three big problems: raw bitumen is low value, the extraction process and refining process for bitumen is inherently high in its CO2 cost and pipeline access to word markets is highly constrained and expensive.
We believe our energy diversification future is as simple as a three-legged stool. The more we can do to build the legs, the stronger our future. The legs must work together or the stool won’t stand up.
The Sturgeon Refinery converts raw bitumen directly into low-carbon, ultra-low sulphur diesel, and diluent. This maximizes the value for all Albertans by generating higher margins from the products we make. By incorporating the best technology, we reduce the carbon content and other environmental impacts to levels that make us the world leader at competitive prices.
Refining in Alberta means that the margin and jobs stay here with significant local value in the form of job creation, taxes and future opportunities.
Adding value to bitumen, regardless of where it takes place, requires the addition of hydrogen. CO2 is a significant by-product of making the needed hydrogen. Refining bitumen requires large quantities of hydrogen, which results in a significant potential carbon footprint.
We are doing things differently at the Sturgeon Refinery. By incorporating carbon capture we reduce the carbon content of our products and set world leading standards. Capturing our CO2 means that 1.2 million tonnes per year that would have ended up in the atmosphere is now safely and permanently stored.
In addition to the environmental benefits, capturing our CO2 allows us to make what is normally considered a waste product into a valuable feedstock. The captured CO2 will be transported on the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line system and used to bring oil wells in central Alberta back to life with enhanced oil recovery, creating new activity and investment.
The Sturgeon Refinery creates high-value, low CO2 products that are desired locally and globally and that can access markets using existing infrastructure.
After local Western Canadian demand is met, the diesel produced at the Sturgeon Refinery is able to access world markets using existing pipelines, railways and terminals.
Existing pipelines that currently transport diluted bitumen can move larger volumes of higher value products like diesel. The existing infrastructure can export a lot more value if it’s used for refined products rather than low value raw bitumen. It possible to use existing pipelines for both bitumen and diesel and gradually shift the product mix as we move to a higher value economy based on more refining.