Skip to content

North West upgrader a major boost for Sturgeon County

Construction on North West's recently announced upgrader is being marked as a major economic development turning point for Sturgeon County.

Construction on North West's recently announced upgrader is being marked as a major economic development turning point for Sturgeon County. Along with busier roads and a boost in jobs, the complex will create a huge property tax windfall for Sturgeon.

The plant, announced last week, is estimated to cost $15 billion over three phases and will process a total of 150,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney said last week the plant will quickly become the county's largest taxpayer. County estimates have pegged its annual property tax bill at more than $20 million.

"It could equal the taxes we collect today," said Rigney.

Beyond the tax windfall, Rigney said he is excited to see results from all the efforts Sturgeon County has put into economic development, with the prospect of job creation and other opportunities.

The announcement will also force the county to re-evaluate projects previously discussed but put on hold, including a fire hall for the area near the upgrader.

Potential impacts

Expected to take up to a decade to finish phase three, construction of the site will add thousands of jobs to the area and create increased traffic heading to the site.

North West has said that the site, along Highway 643, was chosen in part for its access.

Company chair Ian MacGregor said he knows the project could cause headaches for local residents, but North West is eager to avoid them.

"We want to be good citizens. We live in Alberta, we understand the factors that are inconvenient and the things you should do to mitigate it," he said. "We have to do it right. We are from here; we don't get to go back to Texas when we are done."

To deal with those impacts, North West has been trying to plan the project down to the smallest details, he added.

"We have tried to plan as early as we can for those and we are going to continue to plan. And if someone thinks we are doing something incorrectly, we are going to listen to them."

Anne Brown, a member of the group Citizens for Responsible Development, lives near the proposed upgrader. In addition to the environmental and health concerns she has about air quality, she wants to see something done about the strain on the county's roads.

"These highways, we outgrew them years ago and with the addition of the workers that will be going to this, it is a serious situation out there."

Brown said the government has put a lot of work into getting the plant going through the Bitumen Royalty In Kind (BRIK) program and they should put equal effort in helping residents.

"Our government put a lot of effort into making sure this happened with the BRIK agreement, but what have they done for the people?"

Regional promise

Neil Shelly, executive director of the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association, said after years of little activity news the project is moving forward is a very good sign for the area.

"This announcement is a major turning point in where the heartland and our economic development are headed."

Several years ago, there were nine projects slotted for the region, with four upgrading facilities set for Sturgeon County alone. Shelly said even though the major projects set for the area are unlikely to proceed based on North West's move, the three-phase 150,000-barrel facility is unlikely to go unnoticed.

"It instils confidence back in the region again, a $15 billion announcement sends waves throughout the businesses community," he said. "If somebody is building there, people want to know why, what is happening there."

Shelly also said the announcement of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line will also spur interest and investment in the area, because many businesses are worried about their carbon footprint and the line has excess capacity.

"With that line in the area we will be one of the first carbon capture and storage ready zones in the world."

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks