MINING entrepreneur Harry Dobson - one of Scotland's richest men - has been unveiled as a major driving force behind an ambitious project to construct a £1.5 billion oil refinery in Canada.
Dobson, who has an estimated personal wealth of £500 million, owns a stake in the Newfoundland and Labrador Refining Corporation (LNRC), which has just started a feasibility study into the proposal after reaching agreement with the provincial government.
Fellow investors in the project include Celtic football club shareholder Dermot Desmond and Stephen Posford, a British-based venture capitalist who was previously chief executive of the European operations of Salomon Brothers. It is understood that the oil refinery plans are focussed on the Placentia Bay area of the province, chosen due to factors such as a skilled local workforce, established ice-free shipping lanes and proximity to American and European markets.
The feasibility study, which is being funded entirely by the company at a cost of $7m (£4m), will take around 42 weeks to complete and will include analysis of the potential supplies of crude oil, refinery layout and engineering requirements.
Although the optimal size of the refinery will only be decided when the study has been undertaken, initial estimates have put the potential capacity at around the 300,000 barrels-a-day mark.
Scottish-born Dobson, an entrepreneur and financier who has extensive experience and interests in the natural resources sector, is one of the founding investors in the LNRC. Dobson, who began his career in Australia and Canada, is also actively involved in several listed companies, including Kirkland Lake Gold, Rambler Metals and Mining and Borders and Southern Petroleum. He also has a number of property investment holdings in Europe.
As well as his football interests, Desmond is also chairman and founder of International Investment Underwriting, based in Dublin. The other founding investor in the LNRC is Altius Resources, a company based in the province that is primarily focussed on natural resources.
The energy sector is of vital importance to Newfoundland and Labrador's economy and contributes approximately 19.6 per cent to its gross domestic product.
Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, said in a statement: "We are very excited with this feasibility study which has tremendous economic implications for the province."
Ed Byrne, Newfoundland's natural resources minister, has also announced his support for such a project and emphasised the importance of increasing the worldwide oil refining capacity.
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