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BC-funded study says Kitimat refinery 'has economic merit'

Newspaper baron David Black's $25-billion proposal to build an oil sands refinery at Kitimat "has economic merit and should be considered seriously," a report prepared for the B.C. government concludes.

"Such a refinery would provide incremental long term economic benefits to the region," reads the report, released Tuesday, which was prepared by Navigant Consulting, a global expert services firm.

Black, owner of the Black Media chain, recently made headlines by proclaiming that Swiss-based Oppenheimer Investments Group has agreed to fully finance his refinery proposal.

Today's Tyee cover story, however, raises questions about the group's investment track record.

A visit to the Oppenheimer Investments Group website by Prince George-based writer and columnist Peter Ewart revealed pictures of cities and buildings with "almost no accompanying text to identify the location of these projects or the names of the clients."

"One drawing," Ewart wrote, "appears to depict an aerial view of a site somewhere on the coast of Albania."

He added: "Leaving the website, readers and prospective investors could be excused for feeling downright mystified."

The Navigant Consulting report nonetheless concluded that Black's proposal is technically sound, and "that exports from a refinery at Kitimat could probably be accommodated in the Asian market."

Construction of the refinery itself might cost upwards of $7 billion, it predicted -- still $9 billion less than the $16 billion price tag Black anticipates. (The remainder of Black's $25 billion cost estimate would cover new pipelines and tankers).

"One advantage to a refinery," the report said, as opposed to Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal, is that the tankers "used to export products would, on average, be considerably smaller."

It added: "Given the smaller parcel sizes with products, however, the number of vessel movements would by necessity have to increase."

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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