This year, the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA) has set its sights on advocacy.
Mark Plamondon, executive director for AIHA, said the organization will continue to promote the Industrial Heartland to potential investors.
“We are a marketing organization ... so we're promoting the competitive advantages of the region,” he said during a luncheon on Jan. 31, where he reviewed this past year’s achievements of the AIHA and outlined initiatives for the upcoming year.
Plamondon said there are many hurdles the Industrial Heartland has been facing when it comes to attracting investors to Alberta.
Alberta’s largest petrochemical competitor is the U.S., where many investors find a quick return on investment and easy access to the global market. The province, on the other hand, is land-locked and takes longer for companies to turn a profit due to regulatory red tape.
The province also has four seasons to contend with, which means refineries are more costly to build so they can withstand Canada’s harsh winters.
Alberta’s one advantage is its low-cost feedstock – the raw materials used for refining. Plamondon said Alberta’s propane is a lot cheaper than in the U.S., making the province an attractive option for potential investors.
On whether the cheap feedstock is enough to overcome Alberta’s many hurdles, Plamondon said the government plays a vital part.
“The governments have such a huge role in creating a framework for a competitive environment. It is the regulatory process, it’s the tax framework, it is all these things that will help,” he said.
The provincial government recently announced around $20 billion investment dollars could find their way to the Alberta Industrial Heartland.
During the AIHA annual stakeholders event, NDP Premier Rachel Notley said there are currently 14 companies looking to build a project in one of the three programs announced by the provincial government last year: the Petrochemical Diversification Program, the Partial Upgrading Program and the Petrochemical Feedstock Investment Program.
On Feb. 4, Deron Bilous, NDP Minister of Economic Development and Trade, said the government could potentially look at adding more projects in the future.
“If that's what's needed to attract these $3-to $4-or $5-billion investments, then I think absolutely, and the return on investment speaks for itself,” he noted.
Tracey Hill, manager of communications with the AIHA and chair of the Life in the Heartland Initiative, said AIHA was part of the Energy Diversification Advisory Committee, which made recommendations to the government on remaining competitive.
“A lot of the work that AIHA is doing is to highlight those opportunities and certainly advocate on behalf of competitiveness,” she said.
On Feb. 4, Pembina Pipeline Corp. announced its decision to move forward with a $4.5-billion petrochemical plant in Sturgeon County.
Once built, the plant will refine about 23,000 barrels of propane per day into about 550,000 tonnes of polypropylene pellets per year.