Alberta is asking private companies for proposals to build or expand oil refineries, one of several steps to deal with what Premier Rachel Notley called "an extraordinary and punishing oil price crisis."
Notley painted the move as a necessary government investment to create more jobs in Alberta and get more value for its oil while also diversifying how it is used.
“Let’s start making more of the products that the world needs right here at home,” she said at a news conference, adding that the government had heard from a number of interested companies in recent months.
She did not say what volume of refining capacity the government was hoping to see in proposals, which are due by Feb. 8 and can be for a completely new project or an expansion to an existing site either in Alberta or tied to Alberta production.
Nor did she say how much the government would pay for the refining expansion. “We’re not yet at the point where we’re going to talk about the exact amount or the nature of government’s engagement,” she said, indicating that tax or royalty breaks were not out of the question.
Alberta's NDP government has been fighting its sister party in British Columbia, and pushing the federal Liberal government, to try to get a major pipeline expansion to the coast built in order to export more oil at better prices. The proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is back in the regulatory review process as a result of a court order.
The province last month ordered a cut to production which has in the short term helped to reverse a widening deficit between the lower prices Canadian crude producers can get for their heavier oil versus those selling lighter fare in the United States.
Notley repeated an assertion that the lack of pipeline access to tide water for Canada's oil exports is costing Canada's economy up to $80 million a day.
The proposed cuts would take effect beginning in January 2019, and will cut production initially by 325,000 barrels per day, or about 8.7 per cent of the 3.7 million barrels per day of raw crude and bitumen Alberta currently produces.
In November, she announced Alberta will buy trains to move an an additional 120,000 barrels per day out of the province, starting late 2019. The full complement of rail cars would ship out in 2020.