North West Refining Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Limited formed the North West Redwater Partnership (NWR) and embarked on a joint venture to build a first-of-its-kind refinery that champions sustainability and brings resources and revenue back to the community it is built in.

Located north of Edmonton, Alberta, the North West Redwater Sturgeon Refinery megaproject is the first new refinery built in Canada in over 35 years. Designed to produce high-quality energy products, it is also a key step in a new process that both reduces carbon creation and captures carbon that can be later utilized or stored indefinitely. 

The refinery is an essential part of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line system. It is the first of its kind in the world to create a sustainable emissions solution that converts a bitumen blend into ultra-low-sulphur diesel and other high-value petroleum products such as vacuum gas oil (VGO) and diluents.

“NWR brought us on because the work we had done with them was incredibly beneficial and they knew we would help them accomplish their goals. They trusted that we would help them create the impact they want to have on the industry.” - Grant Mombourquette, construction manager at PCL Industrial Management Inc.

Construction spanned four distinct elements: building the utility plant, building the refinery tank farm, building the gasified process unit — one of the most complex units on the project with a key role in the refinery’s carbon capture process— and pre-commissioning the facility prior to start up.

Central to the unique capabilities of the refinery, the gasifier unit is the heart of the facility. As bitumen is transformed into light oil, the gasifier converts waste byproducts into cleaner, usable gases which minimizes environmental impacts. Compared to traditional methods, this process reduces the production of carbon by approximately 70%.

The facility was constructed in modular components, and those modules came from many different locations including local and overseas facilities. PCL assisted in providing oversight for the owner at one of the overseas fabrication facilities to ensure the critical deliveries where aligned with the site requirements.

In the end, PCL received, unpacked and safely set 337 modules across three units.

“We were able to bring our expertise to the table and put a team together to support the overseas module fabrication on behalf of the owner,” says Grant. “We performed the necessary functions to ensure the success of the module program and brought peace of mind to the owner that the modules would be delivered to Canada in time to support their overall project schedule.” 

NWR set out to do something that has never been done in Canada: build a clean refinery that would allow the Alberta energy sector to process its own natural resources—a point of deep pride to the industry. The operational facility continues to support local community organizations in its surrounding areas.

Long term projects like this demonstrate the value that a trusted building partner can bring. The result is a refinery that captures 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 annually, and a key part of the world's largest-capacity carbon pipeline.

Like a lot of our projects, it’s all about the relationship you build with the project team and owners. It relies on seeing that develop and realizing where that can take you today, and the strength in the relationship with this project team simply speaks for itself, says Grant Mombourquette.

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