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Delta throwback: Oil refinery eyed for Roberts Bank

The $350-million oil refinery in South Delta would have received Alberta crude from a pipeline
tome goode and lorne hope delta council 1974
Mayor Tom Goode’s (pictured left) reaction to news that a giant oil refinery could be built at Roberts Bank was, “My God, if it comes to Delta it would be a disaster.” He’s pictured with Alderman Lorne Hope who conveyed similar sentiments.

There was a time when Roberts Bank was being eyed as a potential oil hub.

In the mid-1970s, concerns were raised in South Delta about the possibility of a $350-million oil refinery would be built in the area.

Then-premier Dave Barrett said several sites for a new refinery were being considered “but no decision will be made until all environmental, social and economic factors have been considered.”

Years earlier, in 1971, Delta council objected to discussion at the Greater Vancouver Regional District level about consideration of a coal slurry pipeline corridor 400 feet wide through Delta and the Roberts Bank Superport.

The much talked about oil refinery in 1974, which would have had a capacity of about 100,000 barrels per day, would have received its supply of crude from Alberta through the existing Trans-Mountain pipeline.

The previous fall, the B.C. Petroleum Corporation carried out studies at Roberts Bank.

When news broke about the proposal, the shock brought cries of “my God,” “never” and “I’m flabbergasted” from members of Delta council.

“You can imagine it – a nice big oil refinery with nice big tankers and pipelines all over Delta farmlands,” said Alderman Lorne Hope.

Mayor Tom Goode would join several representatives of the Greater Vancouver Regional District to visit oil refineries at Cherry Point and Edmonton to obtain information on their effect on those areas.

By 1975, provincial industrial development minister Gary Lauk assured, “As long as the NDP is in government, there will be no oil refinery at Roberts Bank.”

That was good news for Goode, who had also been assured no refinery would be built at Tilbury Island or anywhere along the Fraser River.

At the time, Roberts Bank only had a bulk loading facility for raw materials such as coal, sulphur, potash and grain.

A study involving both the federal and provincial governments was about to get underway in 1975, looking at the future of Roberts Bank, although oil was not part of that discussion. Development of a major container port was something considered for the distant future.

A container terminal wouldn't come until the 1990s.