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SV poised to become key green energy hub

The recent sale of the seaport to World Energy GH2 and the airport to Dymond Group of Companies means Stephenville is anticipating a new future as a green energy transportation hub. – Jaymie White / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

STEPHENVILLE — On Thursday June 1, World Energy GH2 officially announced its acquisition of the Port of Stephenville, an announcement that comes well ahead of any official government approval for Project Nujio’qonik. “The Port of Stephenville is the cornerstone of our project and will position the Bay St. George area as a green energy hub. We are working through the provincial Crown Lands and Environmental Assessment processes and are hoping to be approved for the project,” said a spokesperson for World Energy GH2 in response to email inquiries. “The port will continue to service marine industry customers. Following environmental approvals and permitting, World Energy GH2 plans to begin site preparation for construction of the green hydrogen plant. The acquisition of the port is an important step toward the shipping of green hydrogen and green ammonia to global markets. In order to fulfill the August 23, 2022, Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance, Project Nujio’qonik aims to produce green hydrogen in 2025. Industrial operations at the port will continue.” Unlike the port in Corner Brook, there are currently no plans in the works for cruise ships to layover in Stephenville. “We aim to create the Port of Stephenville as a green energy hub and would be open to working with other proponents. As the project gains provincial approvals, including Crown Lands and Environmental Assessment, and the project investors make a final investment decision (FID), approximately 1,800 direct construction jobs are expected, 300 ongoing operations jobs, and 3,500 indirect jobs. Jobs at the port are included in these numbers.” Future plans for the port are currently under development, but are centered around green energy. “The Port of Stephenville will be a key asset for the production and shipping of green hydrogen and green ammonia. We look forward to investing in, expanding, upgrading and operating a world-class port for clean energy development here in Newfoundland and Labrador.” The current community office for World Energy GH2 is located at the Stephenville airport, which is in the last stages of its official hand over to the Dymond Group of Companies, but that isn’t related to any potential partnerships between the two. “The Community Office is located in the airport because it is a central, accessible location for community members to meet with our team. The Community Office in the Stephenville Airport is not connected to any plans for the airport.” Mayor Tom Rose is anticipating big progress for the Town of Stephenville in the wake of both deals. “We heard about the pending sale over a year ago, and these sales agreements take quite some time, especially big commercial transactions. But very pleased that World Energy looked at the port as a key critical piece of infrastructure needed in their master plan, I guess to create green energy from wind and electrolyzers with a hydrogen plant to provide energy to the European Union, in particular, Germany. The port sale going through so quickly in direct contrast to the airport sale has raised questions, but there are a couple of notable differences according to the mayor. “The one big factor – there’s a couple, I guess – with the airport, they’ve been less than two years into the deal, so we’re probably closing in on 18 to 20 months on that deal, but the airport was in bankruptcy protection. That was the big hurdle, and that took six, seven months just to deal with that. So if you take six, seven months off the equation, it may have closed as fast as the port closed,” explained Rose. “The other little factor is with the port to World Energy, that was private to private, whereas the Stephenville Airport Corporation was a community run, non-share community group, so that took a little bit more, I’m sure, due diligence and legal framework and so forth. So I’m not surprised. But that file is moving very well, and we’re anticipating the closure on that any day now, according to the lawyers on the Stephenville Airport Corporation side and Mr. Carl Dymond. So it’s great news for Stephenville. We’ve got two major pieces of infrastructure that haven’t been very busy. The port got less busy when Abitibi Price closed the paper mill, and ever since COVID we’ve been in really tough shape commercially at the airport, but it’s time for these pieces of infrastructure to get busier because of the investment coming from both sides of the equation, and so the future really looks good.” There will be revenue that comes into Stephenville as a result of these two sales. “Once the port completes its bill and innovations and upgrades, and then a hydrogen plant gets built, these are big assessment numbers, and that’s something that we will work on with World Energy. For example, it could be full taxation, or it could be a grant in lieu of taxes. So, for example, when Abitibi operated the paper mill – I’ll just give a scenario – they used to contribute $750,000 to the Town of Stephenville, so that was 250 to 300 workers, a big piece of industry,” said Rose. “The airport, the taxation on that is over a quarter million dollars a year, and we’ve been putting in some years, $400,000. So if you take the equation of we don’t have to spend $400,000 a year anymore, and we’re going to probably take in a quarter of a million dollars, the taxpayers of this town are $600, $700 thousand ahead just on the airport deal. So it’s really looking good.” A bigger budget will serve to benefit the Town’s infrastructure and community projects, says Rose. “That allows us as a council to spend more money on the priorities of its citizens, which are better roads, better recreation, focus maybe on affordable housing, some of the initiatives we’re working on. Part of our work we do with our Indigenous group, part of inclusion and reconciliation, and there’s so many priorities and files that come at us, but being in a really good fiscal position, which we’re going to be, we’re going to be in good shape to make a difference in this town,” said Rose. “What I want to emphasize is that the Port of Stephenville and the Stephenville International Airport is a piece of infrastructure that is very unique for big industry like what’s coming and you can go sea to air, air to sea. They’re technically connected and the closest to us would be Seattle, Washington. That’s significant.”

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