The Co-op Refinery Complex is an oil refinery spread over 544 acres (2.20 km2) located in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, owned and operated by Consumers Co-operative Refinery Limited, an affiliate of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL). The refinery provides oil products to the member co-operatives of Federated Co-operatives Limited as well as most other petroleum retailers in the region including major national and regional brands. The complex completed a CA$2.9 billion upgrade project in 2012 to increase operations up to 145,000 barrels per day (23,100 m3/d)
In the 1930s, horses were giving way to petroleum-fuelled tractors. This was especially true in the area around Regina, where the broad level prairie was well suited to the first tractors and combine harvesters.
As petroleum use increased, farmers looked for the ways to reduce the cost of this important crop input. Many farmers had experience in the benefits of co-operation through joint purchases of inputs such as fence posts, binder twine and coal. These efforts often resulted in the formation of local co-ops. Based on this tradition, farmers formed oil co-ops to reduce the cost of fuel.
Co-ops were formed at Milestone, Wilcox, Sherwood at Regina, Moose Jaw, Riceton, Lewvan, Rouleau, Lang, Weyburn and Pense, among other locations. The co-ops often bought gasoline from US refiners and sold it at margins of up to seven cents a gallon, returning the savings to their members.
In 1933, the Canadian government established a tariff of 3.7 cents a gallon on gasoline imported from the United States, effectively cutting the co-ops off from this source of supply. The co-ops turned to small, independent refiners at Coutts in Alberta and Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan. However, as the year progressed, these independent refiners were bought up by the major oil companies and the wholesale price of gasoline was raised two cents a gallon.
Beginning in the winter of 1933, the oil distribution co-ops launched a drive to build their own refinery. Among the leaders was Harry Fowler, the Manager of the Wilcox Co-op, who later became the refinery’s first Secretary-Treasurer and Manager when the Refinery was incorporated in 1934.
The Refinery’s first President was Ernest Frisk of Kronau, long-time Secretary of Riceton Co-op. Original Board Member, Sid Gough of Lewvan, distinguished himself by pledging the title to his own farm as security for the line of credit with the railroad. His faith allowed the refinery to continue operating at a critical point.
The fundraising drive raised a total of $32,000 from eight farmers. As this wasn’t enough to build the cracking plant that was desired, the Board of Directors pressed ahead with a less-expensive “skimming plant” model capable of producing 500 barrels per day.
The refinery was brought into operation on May 27, 1935, at eleven o’clock in the morning.
In its first year of operation, the plant had sales of $253,000 and achieved savings of $30,000—almost equal to the initial investment.
- In 1939, CRC signed a contract to build a cracking plant at a cost of approximately $250,000. The cracking plant was essential to increase the yield of gasoline. It also expanded production to 1,500 barrels of crude oil a day. Harry Fowler called it “our off the farm power plant.”
- On 1951, CRC officially opened an expansion to 5,000 barrels a day.
- In 1954, A $1.7 million expansion doubled production to 12,000 barrels a day. As well, it made the Refinery added a then-state-of-the-art Cat Cracker and several other processing units.
- By 1974, Refinery production had grown to 28,000 barrels of crude a day. A phased $30 million expansion program was announced to bring capacity up to 50,000 barrels a day.