Hurdle for proposed gas refining facility is laborers

Credit: Northeast News

The facility in Chetwynd will be similar this the above shown, in Norway.


CHETWYND – A unique gas refining facility is likely coming to Chetwynd, but nothing will get built if the company, Blue Fuel Energy, can’t find enough laborers.

“We are in the middle of permitting, we have secured the land, we have done process design, heat balances, technology selection, all that is done, so we are quite far down the line,” said Juergen Puetter, president and CEO.

The $2-billion facility has had a hard time finding a home, with efforts to place it going back as far as 2008.

“We had tried five different sites in other locations, they all had some problem or another, andthis turned out to be probably the most attractive site,” said Puetter.

The Chetwynd site has access to rail, access to water, and flat land – all key components.

The proposed structure, called, for the time being, Sundance Fuel Facility, will turn natural gas plus water into a synthetic gas, which will be converted into methanol, and then eventually converted into gasoline.

“We are using electric drive to reduce carbon intensity, rather than using gas to drive the plant, we are driving it with electric power . . . . Then what we do is we add additional renewable hydrogen by electrolyzing water into hydrogen oxygen, and add that electrolyzed hydrogen into the gasoline to reduce the carbon intensity,” he explained.

The gasoline will be for a North American market, the key appeal being that Blue Fuel Energy will be creating a gasoline that can fulfill the low carbon fuel standard of British Columbia and California, which is currently done by adding ethanol.

All gasoline today is made from oil, and so the Sundance Fuel Facility will be creating gasoline in a new way.

“The technology is actually well known, it just hasn’t been done before here,” said Puetter. “What we are doing differently is how we are putting it all together and using electric drive, and adding renewable hydrogen, so we’ve added some refinements to the process, but the underlying core chemical process has been well known and established.”

The West Moberly First Nations actually suggested Chetwynd as an ideal location, and there are perks for First Nations, as well as local communities.

Using excess heat from the facility’s processing, large scale greenhouses will be developed to use the heat, providing organic process that would be owned, partially if not fully, by First Nations groups.

“Our process generates lots of heat, we can’t recover all of it, and what we can’t recover we give to them, and that’s ideal heat to heat greenhouses,” Puetter said.

Another year of permitting, engineering and design work are the next steps, and if everything goes well for Blue Fuel Energy, construction could start as early as 2016.

Finding laborers is another big challenge, however. The construction period will likely take three years.

“Let’s assume we have all the permits and everything in place, and the financing and everything is there, the next big challenge is going to be finding enough labor, particularly during construction, because where do you find 1,000 or 2,000 people to help build such a large facility? There aren’t enough folks in the Peace that have the skills, or are available, and what concerns us is if Site C goes ahead, then we’d be competing against Site C for labour,” he said.

Nonetheless, the project is moving ahead, and the District of Chetwynd welcomes it.

“If this goes ahead, it’s going to be good for the whole South Peace area,” said Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols.

“Mr. Puetter has some pretty solid ideas, and he is definitely favouring green. And if can follow through with his processes the way he has described them, it’ll be the greenest plant in the area.”

Bronwyn Scott