Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan is backing Chevron's bid to secure a more steady supply of oil from Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.
"Chevron is really the only refinery left in the Lower Mainland, and their access to any oil product is dependent upon that pipeline. We should, in my view, be looking after our local interests first before we export oil," Corrigan said. "By allowing the market to determine whether Chevron will get any access means that, potentially, we could end up with our only refinery closed. That means all of our refined oil has to come from offshore. That doesn't seem to me to be in the public's interest, in the country's interest, or in the province's interest."
In July, Chevron applied to the National Energy Board for prioritized access because increased demand on the pipeline's capacity has led to curtailments in Chevron's supply, threatening the viability of the refinery.
Each month, all of the shippers who use Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline put forward the volume of oil products they want from the line, which ships oil from Alberta to
Burnaby. If the total volume of all the shippers' requests exceeds the pipeline's maximum capacity, all the requested volumes are reduced and equally proportioned - a process called "apportionment" in the industry. That process has, at times, left Chevron with up to 70 per cent less oil than requested. A special designation granted from the National Energy Board would guarantee Chevron gets its supply of oil, despite high demand. Chevron's National Energy Board hearing is set for Jan. 15, and Corrigan has been granted intervenor status, meaning he can present evidence and cross-examine others.
Corrigan said if B.C. loses refining capacity, Canadian oil would be exported, and there could be problems buying it back once it's refined.
"If there is any reason that the U.S. decides they are not going to export their refined product, then we could have a problem in getting access to their market," he said. "Additionally, we could find they are making deals with China to export their oil, so we would be in a situation where we are exporting oil, but we're unable to get the refined product back."
Corrigan pointed out that solving Chevron's supply problem is related to protecting national interests, which is different from the Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion project, something city councillors have publicly opposed.
According to Chevron, the Kinder Morgan expansion won't necessarily solve the refinery's supply problem, something Corrigan also stated.
"The expansion is simply for export. All we're saying is on the existing pipeline, we want to be sure that Chevron, which takes about a quarter of that pipeline's capacity, continues to get that share," he said.
But some Burnaby residents, however, would like to see the refinery disappear. Burnaby's Peter Cech, a Metro Vancouver employee lives close to Chevron's refinery and tank farm. Cech has served on Chevron's community advisory panel and is a longtime opponent of the refinery. He would ultimately like to see it go, but until there's an alternative, he'd also like to keep the refining jobs in Canada.
"I think I have to accept the fact it's going to take a while to transition away from fossil fuel vehicles, so if that's true, we might as well have the refining taking place in Canada so the jobs are in Canada. It makes no sense to me for us to ship those jobs to Asia and then buy fuel back," he said. "But in parallel to that, there also needs to be more investments in green alternatives. ... Cars aren't going to go away. But there has to be a better way to make a car than what we have now."
Cech said he's also frustrated that Chevron, in his view, seems to be doing the minimum for the environment and only at the government's behest.
"Look at the seepage on the beach. They're trying to throw a Band-Aid on it, but as far as I can tell, they are not addressing the real problem, which is that there are decades worth of toxins in the soil there, and eventually they are going to find their way to the foreshore unless somebody does something," he said. "I don't see anything happening, and I don't see government doing anything about it."