From bitumen pucks to refineries, Mandel outlines Alberta Party's innovation strategy

Neil Korotash

March 27, 2019


Sammy Hudes, Calgary Herald

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel says he’ll put the province on track to be a leader in innovation and diversification if his party forms government following next month’s election.

Speaking in Edmonton on Wednesday, Mandel said the Alberta Party would expand the mandate of provincially funded corporation Alberta Innovates, and increase its funding to $375 million.

He pointed to programs such as CanaPux — a technology that mixes and coats oilsands bitumen with polymer plastic, creating a pellet-shaped product similar in shape to a hockey puck — as an example of innovation the Alberta Party would support.

Late last year, Canadian National Railway Co. said it planned to build a pilot plant worth up to $50 million to create the product, in order to transport it by rail and ships to customers around the world.

The railway said it was in discussions with the federal and Alberta governments, along with potential oilsands industry partners, to fund the 10,000-barrel-per-day pilot plant.

An Alberta Party government would expedite approvals for the pilot facility and contribute $16.7 million to fund one-third of the pilot project.

“We really believe in this project. But also what is really important about this is the innovation, and innovation is a vital part about changing our economy,” Mandel said.

“What we need to do is find ways to move our bitumen in a different kind of way, so the CanaPux one is moving heavy bitumen in a way that’s more environmentally sensitive and we think it’s a really interesting way to do things.”

The Alberta Party leader also said he’d take advantage of the province’s “abundance” of natural gas and create a program “which will take the royalty out of natural gas.”

“We can partner with the petrochemical industry to allow their projects to move ahead,” he said, adding the program would be put in place for a 10-year period.

“The petrochemical industry is where the great growth can happen because it is supplying . . . new products for the new age economies. We see this gas royalty in-kind as a way in which we can partner with these petrochemical firms so they can expand their businesses.”

Mandel noted the party would also support the next planned phases of the $9.7-billion North West Redwater Sturgeon Refinery 35 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

The three-phase, 150,000-barrels-per-day bitumen-blend refinery, Canada’s first new oil refinery in 34 years, is designed to produce diesel, diluent and other products for the Alberta and world markets.

“The Alberta Party strongly supports Phases 2 and 3,” said Mandel.

Construction of those stages would cost an estimated $18 billion, which would spur an increase of $16 billion in GDP, according to the party.