Dynamics of Industrial Location

Come By Chance Oil Refinery Re-starts

In chapter 6 there is a brief discussion of the Come By Chance oil refinery which started-up in 1974/5. It employed between 400-500 workers and after a couple of years of unprofitable operations it was closed down. It is no longer in 'mothballs' as claimed in the book (p. 145). As Ian MacLachan (University of Lethbridge) rightly pointed out to me the refinery is fully operational.
Keith Storey (Memorial University of Newfoundland) notes in a personal communication, the refinery was re-started in 1987 after a long period of closure. Petro-Canada, who had themselves paid a small sum to acquire the rights to the refinery essentially gave the refinery (for a nominal $1) to a US-based firm. As Keith further notes the refinery again employs between 400-500 workers and operates on a 24 hour basis. Feedstock is imported from various sources but not from the nearby Hibernia oil field off the Newfoundland coast. Next door to the refinery, however, there is a transshipment terminal for Hibernia oil. The future of the refinery is hard to discern. On the one hand, since its re-opening in 1987 there have been several ownership changes and the technological problems that faced the original design, namely an inability to produce 'high end' aviation fuel, have apparently not been resolved. The refinery manufactures gasoline, kerosene and low value products. Air pollution is a problem as well. Yet the plant has now operated for around 10 years and proposals to diversify the operation have been made, including one to convert surplus sulphur into pellets is underway. There is a co-generation project under discussion (summer 1998) as well.
It might be noted that Newfoundland has an extremely high level of unemployment and the survival of a factory of this size is of considerable social (and political) significance.