From the Beginning- Sarnia's Evolution as Refining/Petchem Center Continues

Sarnia, ON is one of Canada’s leading refinery and petrochemical centers, and for good reason. From the start –– 158 years ago, with what Canadians claim to be the world’s first oil well in the Western Hemisphere –– the Sarnia area has had geology and geography on its side, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s within 500 miles of more than half the people in North America. But the interconnecting infrastructure that drives Sarnia’s Chemical Valley isn’t nearly as well known or understood as the pipelines, railroads, storage and refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Also, it should be noted, Sarnia has become one of the biggest beneficiaries of Marcellus/Utica production of ethane and other natural gas liquids, the mother’s milk of the petchem sector. That alone makes it worth discussing. Today, we begin a series on a lynchpin of Canada’s hydrocarbon production and processing sector.

If Canadians are to be believed –– aren’t they too nice not to be? –– the first commercial oil well was dug (not drilled) by James Miller Williams at what came to be known as Oil Springs, ON (just south of Sarnia, in southwestern Ontario) in the summer of 1858. That was a full year before Edwin Drake drilled his first well at Titusville, PA.  Decades and even centuries before Williams dug that initial 50-foot well (some say he was drilling for water –– not oil –– and got lucky, Jed Clampett-style), the Oil Springs area had been known for its sticky, crude oil-based “gum beds,” small parts of which were excavated and refined into asphalt, paints and resins by native people and noted by early French explorers. After he struck oil, Williams, went right to work, building a simple refinery nearby and establishing Canada’s first oil company (J.M. Williams Co., which was soon renamed the Canadian Oil Co. to reflect his ambitions). Within a few years, more than 100 oil wells had been drilled in the Sarnia/Oil Springs/Petrolia area by wildcatters, and the region’s oil business was off to a rousing start –– until it wasn’t. The boom led to a bust (too much oil production flooded the market and prices collapsed –– sound familiar?), but a rebound followed, and by 1900 not only had Imperial Oil been formed (it had refineries in Petrolia and in nearby London, ON), it had been gobbled up by John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. (Exxon Mobil still owns nearly 70% of Imperial.) Oil production in Ontario fizzled out decades ago, but by World War II Sarnia had cemented its place as one of eastern Canada’s refining and petrochemical hubs, criss-crossed by railroads and pipelines, and chock full of skilled refinery and petchem workers.

The Backstage Pass to RBN Energy: Now Expanding to VIP Backstage Pass

Three years ago, we launched Backstage Pass, our premium subscription service that provides access to our Drill-Down reports, archive access to blogs, our Spotcheck indicators, RBN Fundamentals Webcasts, and last but not least, our periodic Backstage Pass Get-Togethers.  Backstage Pass has been hugely successful, and we’ve had a number of requests to expand the program to include some of our other products and services, which we are doing now.  We are also making a few other changes to the program.  

But don’t panic!  If you are currently a subscriber, or even if you sign up before February 1, 2017 you still will pay only the low-low price of $75.00 per month.  So, no price increase for existing subscribers or anyone who takes advantage of our ‘2016 grandfathered’ pricing.  But starting in February, the price will be going up to $90.00 per month.

There are some other big advantages of this grandfathered deal.  

  • First, you get access to all 35 of the Drill Down reports that we’ve done over the past 3 years, instantly, and the new ones to be published during your subscription.  Most are as relevant today as they were when originally published.  After February 1st, new subscribers only receive the last 6 months of Drill Down reports.
  • Second, you get access to daily blog archive going back to our very first blogs five years ago.  Starting on February 1, if you don’t have a Backstage Pass you will not be able to access blogs older than five days.   
  • Third, there are discounts available.  If you subscribe for a year, you get a 15% discount, or only $918 for the year.  And if your company takes advantage of our multi-seat or corporate subscription programs, further discounts are available.  More information here.
  • Fourth, you can elect to step up to our all-new VIP Backstage Pass™,  that rolls together Backstage Pass with subscriptions for our Natgas Billboard (daily natural gas supply, demand, inventories, and pricing), NGL Voyager with Data File (twice monthly NGL market analysis) reports and free registration for our semi-annual School of Energy conferences, along with video replay of the entire conference.  And with a 10 or more multi-seat subscription of corporate subscription to VIP RBN Backstage Pass™, Rusty Braziel will make an in-person presentation of RBN’s latest Market Macro, our current assessment of crude oil, natural gas and NGL markets, including production trends, supply/demand balances, infrastructure developments and our outlook for pricing. 

To make sure you have access to our grandfathered pricing and services, just go to the Backstage Pass subscriber page and sign up NOW!  For more information on annual subscription discounts and the VIP Backstage Pass, click here and we’ll get the information to you.

Thanks again for your support and we look forward to providing even more energy market information to you in 2017.

Our intent in this series is to describe Sarnia’s existing refinery and petrochemical infrastructure, including the railroads, rail yards, pipelines, storage facilities (underground and aboveground), and other elements that help to keep the place humming –– and, in many cases, thriving. Then, we’ll get to ongoing and planned changes that will affect (for better and for worse) some of Chemical Valley’s major players. First, we should remind non-Canadians that Sarnia is located near the southern tip of Lake Huron, where the second-largest of the Great Lakes flows into the St. Clair River. The St. Clair forms part of the boundary between Ontario and southeastern Michigan; the river flows into Lake St. Clair, which flows into the Detroit River (which flows into Lake Erie). There are currently three refineries in Sarnia with a combined capacity of about 277 Mb/d: Imperial (121 Mb/d; pink rectangle in Figure 1), Suncor (85 Mb/d; brown rectangle), and Shell (71 Mb/d; red rectangle). 

To access the remainder of From the Beginning- Sarnia's Evolution as Refining/Petchem Center Continues you must be logged as a RBN Backstage Pass™ subscriber.

Full access to the RBN Energy blog archive which includes any posting more than 30 days old is available only to RBN Backstage Pass™ subscribers. In addition to blog archive access, RBN Backstage Pass™ resources include Drill-Down Reports, Spotcheck Indicators, Market Fundamentals Webcasts, Get-Togethers and more. If you have already purchased a subscription, be sure you are logged in For additional help or information, contact us at info@rbnenergy.com or 888-613-8874.