Irving Oil Saint John refinery strategic review
The Irving Oil refinery is photographed at sunset on in Saint John, New Brunswick, March 9, 2014. (CANADA-PIPELINE/IRVINGS REUTERS/Devaan Ingraham)

When Irving Oil announced in early June that the company was undertaking a strategic review of its portfolio, it raised major questions about the future of the operation of its Saint John, New Brunswick refinery and the thousands of associated jobs.

Possible outcomes include a sale of the plant, a cessation of operations or business as usual. All options remain on the table. But the North American refining market has seen few facilities change hands in recent years and the long-term trend has favoured closures.

Saint John heavily dependant on refinery industry

Irving Oil’s expansive operations include fueling stations on both sides of the Atlantic, a complementary network of marine terminals, home delivery of heating products and more. It also operates two refineries — one in Ireland and another in its hometown of Saint John, long seen as the crown jewel of the company.

The Saint John facility is the largest oil refinery in Canada with a processing capacity of 320,000 barrels per day (bpd). It is the primary supplier of refined petroleum products to Atlantic Canada and the U.S. northeast. It is also among the largest employers in New Brunswick and solely responsible for a majority of the province’s exports by GDP.

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James Walsh has 15 years of experience advising executives on domestic and global energy markets and policy. He has worked across Canada, the United States and Europe and is currently based in Atlantic...