Canadian refiner to sell renewable fuels produced from sugar cane

“Don’t blame us,” says the meteorologist. “It’s just the wind.”

On Sunday, the U.S. Department of Energy approved the sale of a refinery operated by Halifax-Gulf Refining, LLC, of the town of Come by Chance, New Brunswick to Apco Refining, LLC, of Corpus Christi, Texas, to produce renewable fuel.

The sale to Apco was part of an agreement between Apco and local governments there that now makes Come by Chance the first large oil refining hub in North America to obtain renewable fuels authorization to be sold to the U.S. market.

“In order to adopt and implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, Europe and elsewhere, it is imperative that the Canadian private sector go green,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday in an announcement made at the factory. “Today is a big day for Alberta, for Alberta’s oilpatch, and for all Canadians.”

The new arrangement is expected to attract renewable fuels production from abroad, and it seeks to bolster businesses in the region — which declined 20 percent over the last decade. Apco’s CEO, Paul Veinig, said that he plans to hire locally while building a plant to supply the renewable fuels market.

The plant is expected to employ more than 50 local people in the town.

No American refinery has ever received renewable fuels authorization, according to Apco’s CEO, Paul Veinig. The refinery is the first in North America to do so.

“This is what we can do, this is how we can get that business going,” Veinig said in a news conference.

The deal, finalized in August after months of negotiations, is the third — and largest — license for synthetic fuel production in Canada in 2018, according to the Fertilizer Institute, a trade association.

The process required “numerous challenges and hurdles,” Veinig said. In Canada, he said, “regulators, legislators, and stakeholders all had to find the right balance between what is good for the people of Canada and what is good for the country as a whole.”

In Minnesota, lawmakers passed a law this year to speed the approval of energy projects that extract synthetic fuels from minerals or plants. The bill also required that projects near hospitals be considered as the state creates rules to ensure safe injections of synthetic fuel into hospitals. “We’re hopeful it means a lot more to Canada than it does to Minnesota,” said Leslie Cohen, spokeswoman for the Fertilizer Institute, which led the biodegradable fuels movement in Minnesota.

In New Brunswick, Veinig suggested the new arrangement could spur more innovation.

“Our approach to this is probably slightly more future-oriented than the American approach,” he said. “Our culture tends to be a little different.”

Veinig noted that the refinery could handle “100 percent renewable fuels at once,” including virgin sugars from the sugar industry — as well as from plants. “We’re not only addressing Canada today, but are we in a position to make that serious move to the States by 2030?” he said.

The deal is expected to close in the coming months. Apco plans to complete construction of its $80 million facility within four years, and to produce more than 700,000 gallons of renewable fuels a year. That volume of fuel — about half of what East Coast refineries currently produce — will come primarily from sugar cane sugar. Apco says it will also be expanding its refining capacity.

“We have exceeded every expectation that we had when we began this journey over a year ago,” Veinig said. “Our commitment to this vision of realizing, generating, and implementing opportunities for a safe, sustainable and economically sustainable future is unshakable.”

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