VANCOUVER - B.C. newspaper mogul David Black says a group of investors has committed financing for his plan to build a $25-billion oil refinery project on the province's northern coast in a deal that would be one of the largest private developments in B.C. history if it goes through.

Black announced in Vancouver on Wednesday he is on the verge of signing a memorandum of understanding in the coming weeks with a consortium of investors.

The deal is for debt financing, not an equity investment in a project being met with some skepticism from within the oil and gas industry.

"How solid is it? I would say it's 100 per cent because in this case, the financiers are very anxious to help get the refined fuels from Canada," Black said in a speech to the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm sure we'll get through to the finish, I'm sure that money will be there."

The consortium of investors was put together by Richard Cooke, senior managing director of Switzerland-based Oppenheimer Investments Group.

"We have the investors together. We have the commitment," Cooke said. "I can't tell you who they are yet but we'll have documents signed in the next 30 days."

Cooke said the investors will not be partners in the project. The refinery and all its accoutrements will be 100 per cent B.C.-owned, he said.

Kitimat Clean Ltd. would include an oil refinery to be built 25 kilometres north of Kitimat, B.C., to process 550,000 barrels a day from Alberta's oil sands.

The projected capital cost of the refinery is $16 billion. The plan also includes a $6-billion oil pipeline and a $2-billion gas pipeline. It may also incorporate its own ocean-going tankers at a cost of $1 billion, Black said.

The owner of Black Press originally planned the refinery as the terminus of the controversial Enbridge (TSX:ENB) Northern Gateway pipeline, saying he hoped the plan would shift the debate about that project.

Black said he's met with Enbridge officials and is still open to working with them, but the original Northern Gateway plan likely will have to be reworked or scrapped.

There has been and still is little interest in the oil patch for a refinery, Black said, but oil producers will be happy to sell the oil. The reality of B.C.'s environmental concerns may be the deciding factor.

"They (those in the oil patch) keep hoping that B.C.'s going to come around and say, 'Well okay, we'll take the temporary construction jobs on the pipeline and you go ahead and ship that bitumen offshore.' But I've been telling them now for a long time, B.C.'s not going to come around on that."

The project still faces very significant hurdles, said Pete Howard, president of the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Enbridge has been working on Northern Gateway for a decade, he said, and First Nations concerns won't simply disappear for Kitimat Clean.

There's also the question of supply. The are several significant projects already well underway that will resolve the oversupply and market issues, Howard said, citing Keystone XL and plans by Enbridge and TransCanada to increase capacity going East.

"He's playing a little loose with time," said Howard, whose Calgary-based institute is funded by the federal and provincial governments and the oil and gas industry through the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Black has no product purchase agreements and may have trouble getting the sales in Asia that he anticipates, he said.

"They really want the crude," Howard said. "They want to use their refineries, they want to use their people to build them and operate them...They're not really looking for the diesel, and the gasoline and the jet fuel."

Black hinted in his speech that such agreements are also imminent.

Pressure is mounting for Canada to diversify its oil markets. Currently, the U.S. is our only customer, and Canadian producers lose an estimated $30 a barrel because of the supply-demand imbalance — $25 billion a year.

Kai Li, of UBC's Sauder School of Business, said the announcement means Black will have the money to pursue what would be the largest private development in B.C. history — once the backers have signed on the dotted line.

"It's really a vote of confidence in the oil and gas industry in Canada," Li said. "It's a very big deal. In recent years there's not many acquisitions of that size."

Kitimat Clean will be the first refinery in the world to employ a new refining technology patented by Expander Energy, of Calgary that should cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, from seven million tonnes of CO2 annually to about 3.5 million tonnes.

That will increase capital costs by $3 billion, but Black said his motivation is not profit.

"I didn’t get into this refinery business to try to make more money for myself in a new industry at the age of 65. I have enough wealth and I enjoy the newspaper business very much," he told the business audience.

A sailor, Black said he doesn't want the B.C. coast threatened by shipping raw bitumen in tankers.

"As my daughter said, 'Dad let’s keep this refinery in our back yard so we can build it right and help look after the planet.'"

Black said the facility could be in service by 2020.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version referred to U.S. investors when in fact, it is unknown where the investors are from

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    The refining or upgrading of the tarry bitumen which lies under the oil sands consumes far more oil and energy than conventional oil and produces almost twice as much carbon. Each barrel of oil requires 3-5 barrels of fresh water from the neighboring Athabasca River. About 90% of this is returned as toxic tailings into the vast unlined tailings ponds that dot the landscape. Syncrude alone dumps 500,000 tons of toxic tailings into just one of their tailings ponds everyday.

  • Boreal Forest and Coast Mountains / Atlin Lake, British Columbia | 2001

    This area, located in the extreme northwest of British Columbia, marks the western boundary of the Boreal region. On the border of the Yukon and Southeast Alaska, the western flank of these mountains descends into Alaska's Tongass Rainforest and British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Far from the oil sands, the greatest remaining coastal temperate and marine ecosystem is imminently threatened by the proposal to build a 750-mile pipeline to pump 550,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude to the coast. Once there, it would be shipped through some of the most treacherous waters, virtually assuring an ecological disaster at some point in the future.

  • Tailings Pond in Winter, Abstract #2 / Alberta Tar Sands | 2010

    Even in the extreme cold of the winter, the toxic tailings ponds do not freeze. On one particularly cold morning, the partially frozen tailings, sand, liquid tailings and oil residue, combined to produce abstractions that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock canvas.

  • Aspen and Spruce | Northern Alberta | 2001

    Photographed in late autumn in softly falling snow, a solitary spruce is set against a sea of aspen. The Boreal Forest of northern Canada is perhaps the best and largest example of a largely intact forest ecosystem. Canada's Boreal Forest alone stores an amount of carbon equal to ten times the total annual global emissions from all fossil fuel consumption.

  • Tar Sands at Night #1 | Alberta Oil Sands | 2010

    Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet's greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.

  • Dry Tailings #2 | Alberta Tar Sands | 2010

    In an effort to deal with the problem of tailings ponds, Suncor is experimenting with dry tailings technology. This has the potential to limit, or eliminate, the need for vast tailings ponds in the future and lessen this aspect of the oil sands' impact.

  • Tailings Pond Abstract #2 | Alberta Tar Sands / 2010

    So large are the Alberta Tar Sands tailings ponds that they can be seen from space. It has been estimated by Natural Resources Canada that the industry to date has produced enough toxic waste to fill a canal 32 feet deep by 65 feet wide from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, and on to Ottawa, a distance of over 2,000 miles. In this image, the sky is reflected in the toxic and oily waste of a tailings pond.

  • Confluence of Carcajou River and Mackenzie River | Mackenzie Valley, NWT | 2005

    The Caracajou River winds back and forth creating this oxbow of wetlands as it joins the Mackenzie flowing north to the Beaufort Sea. This region, almost entirely pristine, and the third largest watershed basin in the world, will be directly impacted by the proposed Mackenzie Valley National Gas Pipeline to fuel the energy needs of the Alberta Oil Sands mega-project.

  • Black Cliff | Alberta Oil Sands | 2005

    Oil sands pit mining is done in benches or steps. These benches are each approximately 12-15 meters high. Giant shovels dig the oil sand and place it into heavy hauler trucks that range in size from 240 tons to the largest trucks, which have a 400-ton capacity.

  • Oil Sands Upgrader in Winter| Alberta Oil Sands | 2010

    The Alberta oil sands are Canada's single largest source of carbon. They produce about as much annually as the nation of Denmark. The refining of the tar-like bitumen requires more water and uses almost twice as much energy as the production of conventional oil. Particularly visible in winter, vast plumes of toxic pollution fill the skies. The oil sands are so large they create their own weather systems.

  • Boreal Forest and Wetland | Athabasca Delta Northern Alberta | 2010

    Located just 70 miles downstream from the Alberta oil sands, the Athabasca Delta is the world's largest freshwater delta. It lies at the convergence of North America's four major flyways and is a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl and considered one of the most globally significant wetlands. It is threatened both by the massive water consumption of the tar sands and its toxic tailings ponds.

  • Tar Pit #3

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  • <strong>NEXT -----> Craziest Pictures of the oilsands</strong>

  • Syncrude's Mildred Lake Upgrader, part of The Syncrude Project complex for oil sands processing, is pictured Monday, March 8, 2006 in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a lake reclaimed from an old mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada on October 22, 2009.

  • A disused mining machine on display in front of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta on October 22, 2009.

  • Tailings pond in winter.

  • Syncrude upgrader.

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  • The Suncor oilsands operation uses trucks that are 3 stories tall, weigh one million pounds, and cost 7 million dollars each.

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  • A tailings pond.

  • Black Cliff in the Alberta oilsands.

  • Oilsands upgrader in winter.

  • Oilsands extraction.

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  • Oils mixes with water at a tailings pond at a Suncor Energy Inc. oilsands mining operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.

  • Fort McMurray is in the heart of the world's biggest single oil deposit - the Athabasca Oil Sands, and the oil is extracted by surface mining and refined in the region. The oil production is at the heart of the economy.

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  • This Tuesday, July 10, 2012 aerial photo shows a Nexen oil sands facility near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

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  • This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows an oilsands tailings pond at a mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada.

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  • Workers use heavy machinery in the tailings pond at the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta , Canada on October 25, 2009.

  • Fort McMurray is in the heart of the world's biggest single oil deposit - the Athabasca Oil Sands, and the oil is extracted by surface mining and refined in the region. The oil production is at the heart of the economy.

  • A large oil refinery in Alberta's Oilsands project. Fort McMurray, Alberta.

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  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

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  • CFB Cold Lake

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  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Debris pushes up against a boom as it stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

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