The Lloydminster Refinery has been in operation for 75 years. Google Earth

With the Lloydminster Heavy Oil Show coming up Sept 14-15, there’s a big milestone to celebrate in heavy oil.

The Cenovus Lloydminster Refinery marked its 75th year in operation.

And if you think that’s a long time, Cenovus’ Lima Refinery in Ohio has got it beat handily.

Nearly all of those 75 years were under Husky, as Cenovus took over Husky in 2021. Not to be confused with the much larger upgrader, which is on Saskatchewan side of the city, the Lloydminster Refinery was built on the Alberta side of the border. But that wasn’t its first home.

The refinery was moved from Wyoming in 1946 and began operation in Lloydminster in 1947. It specializes in asphalt. And as heavy oil has plenty of asphaltenes, and Lloydminster is the centre of heavy oil production, the refinery, heavy oil production and asphalt went hand in hand.

That initial refinery was replaced in the early 1980s. “On May 10th, 1983 a new, fully modern refinery went on stream with a capacity of 25,000 barrels per day,” according to the Heavy Oil Science Centre.

It produces more than 30 different types and grades of road asphalt from heavy oil. These range from road oils used for dust control to highway-grade asphalt.

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The asphalt refinery also produces a naphtha condensate that is blended with heavy oil production and drilling fluids, a kerosene distillate and gas oil which is processed at the Lloydminster upgrader into low-sulphur diesel and Husky Synthetic Blend.

The Lloydminster refinery is the largest producer of paving asphalt in Western Canada. It employs about 120 people.

As recently as 2017, Husky had been taking a hard look at developing an additional 30,000 barrel per day asphalt refinery at Lloydminster, likely beside its upgrader, but those plans had since been shelved. The commissioning of one of its most recent thermal projects, Spruce Lake Central, had been delayed in 2020 due to the oil crash related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was later completed and brought online.

Lima refinery almost as old as the oil industry, itself

John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil fame founded the refinery in 1886, after paying a farmer about $20,000 for his land. This was just 16 years after he founded Standard Oil in 1870. The refinery operates in the same location today, Cenovus said.

The Lima Refinery was bought by Husky from Valero in 2007. It was part of the deal in 2021 when Cenovus acquired Husky.

It produces low sulphur gasoline, gasoline blend stocks, ultra-low sulphur diesel, jet fuel, petrochemical feedstock and other byproducts. A crude oil flexibility project completed in 2019 increased heavy oil processing capacity at the refinery providing flexibility to switch between light and heavy crude oil feedstock.

The refined products are transported via pipelines and rail cars to primary markets in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and southern Michigan.

The 165,000 bpd Lima Refinery employs about 450 people, and several hundred contractors are on site daily.

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“These milestones give us time to reflect on the many years these communities have supported the assets and express appreciation for the generations who have contributed to our longevity,” says Doreen Cole, Senior Vice President, Downstream Manufacturing at Cenovus, in an article on the company’s web page.

These refineries have become local mainstays and active community members, Cenovus noted Collectively, both refineries have made hundreds of investments in surrounding communities.

“We want to congratulate and celebrate our employees who have enabled safe, reliable and responsible operations that have stood the test of time.  I also want to thank everyone for supporting our journey of continuous improvement, whether that be in safety and operational goals or community engagement,” said Cole.

Cenovus has its own long history 

While Cenovus only recently took over ownership of these two refineries, it, too, has a long history.

In 2009, the Cenovus was spun out of EnCana, with Cenovus taking over the major oil plays, including the Weyburn Unit, and Encana focusing on natural gas. EnCana had previously been PanCanadian until 2002. PanCanadian’s roots, as a division of Canadian Pacific Railways, went back as far as the 1880s, with the discovery of natural gas near Medicine Hat.

In 1954, the discovery well of what would eventually become known as the Weyburn field was drilled near Ralph by Central Leduc Oils Ltd., a company which became Central Del Rio Oils Ltd. in 1957 with the merger of Del Rio Oils. The discovery well at 14-7-7-13-W2 came in during the fall of 1954.

According to PetroleumHistory.ca, “Central-Del Rio was purchased by Canadian Pacific Oil and Gas in 1969. However, the company continued to operate under the Central-Del Rio name until 1971 when its name changed to PanCanadian Petroleum Limited.

“PanCanadian was purchased by Alberta Energy Company in 2002 and became EnCana. Later EnCana was split into EnCana and Cenovus.”

Did you work at the Lloydminster Refinery back in the day? Tell us your stories, or send pictures! Email brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca.  

Pipeline Online will have an extensive six-part series about the Grant Devine-era heavy oil upgraders built in Lloydminster and Regina coming out during the week of the Lloydminster Heavy Oil Show. Watch for it.

 

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