by Tina Olivero

    North Atlantic: Building a Solid Future

    In general, most oil refineries work along the same premise with virtually the same outcome. Through a maze of strategically positioned towers and pipes, we heat crude to break its molecules and separate it into different fractions to produce fuels like diesel, jet, propane, and gasoline. That’s the very simplified version, but you get the picture—a refinery basically boils crude and transforms it into the very fuels we use every day to power our vehicles, barbeque our steaks, and heat our homes.

    Because oil refineries worldwide are so comparable, it is to a refiner’s advantage to have a leg-up over the competition. Fortunately, North Atlantic has several competitive advantages that have been instrumental in successfully operating the Newfoundland refinery through the many challenges facing this highly cyclical industry. In fact, it just may be that our competitive advantages are the reason our refinery is still operating today, while many more of our peers have shuttered their facilities under the financial strain of this challenging, unpredictable industry.

    Location. Location. Location.

    Likely one of the most significant advantages for North Atlantic is our geographic location. The reason Placentia Bay was the chosen site for this refinery back in the late 1960s is because it is situated right in the middle of major shipping routes. This gives us direct access to fuel markets in Europe and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and a steady crude supply from the North Sea, Russia, Venezuela, and the Middle East.

    Our ice-free, sheltered cove in Placentia Bay also has some logistical advantages. Because our port is very deep, ships weighing up to 365,000 dwt, carrying up to two million barrels of crude, can sail into our port and tie up directly to our jetty—one of the largest refinery docks in the world. All these port advantages reward us with significant savings on our shipping costs.

    Sour is the way to go.

    Another of North Atlantic’s sound competitive advantages is our refinery’s configuration, and the fact that we can transform a lower-cost, high-sulphur crude into high-quality, clean fuels—clean fuel simply means it is virtually sulphur free, therefore, reducing tailpipe emissions.

    How did we get so clean? We’ve capitalized on innovations, designed into our facility on the drawing board back in the late 1960s. Our cleanfuel technology (hydrocracking for those who know refining) gives us a leg-up in producing low-sulphur, clean fuels from Middle Eastern, Russian, and Venezuelan sour crude. We are confident in saying that we are leaders in producing clean fuels. World regulations are now demanding the very fuels that we’ve been producing for years. In fact, we’ve been selling to markets in California, where they have the world’s toughest clean-fuel regulations.

    Another configuration advantage to mention is the fact that we operate a sour-crude refinery. And, that’s the place to be, since upwards of 80 per cent of worldwide oil reserves still underground today falls into the sour diet. You could say we are perfectly configured to refine the crudes of the future.

    People and safety go hand in hand.

    Topping the list of our most valuable advantages is our people. We didn’t start this piece by bragging about our people, since all companies peg employees as the top factor in business success—or at least they should. At North Atlantic, we don’t have a work force. We have a community that’s nearly 600 strong. They come from the towns surrounding the refinery and beyond. They are operators, engineers, tradespeople, managers, and drivers. A company is only as good as the people working with it, and at North Atlantic, we have some of the highest skilled, safety-minded, dedicated people on the island and in the industry worldwide. And, the fact that they all work in a facility that is safe, environmentally conscious, and one that gives back to the community are added advantages.

    At North Atlantic, we continue to work closely with our parent company, Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC), toward the future and the more challenging goals we’ve set for tomorrow. Our location, our technology, our people and our parent company help ensure an even greater success than we’ve already achieved.

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