Dutch tanker proves helpful in shipping local asphalt

The asphalt tanker Iver Bright takes on another load at the Suncor Energy dock on the St. Clair River on Jan. 13. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

Many Sarnians don’t realize it, but much of the road asphalt they drive on comes from their own backyard.

The Suncor Energy refinery in Sarnia converts crude oil into many products, including about 20% of the gasoline and jet fuel powering Ontario’s economy.

But the refining process also results in asphalt, which is sold to paving companies for road building and pothole patching across the Great Lakes region.

But getting asphalt to market by ship is a challenge, according to a recent edition of Suncor Connections, the company’s newsletter.

“In the wintertime when the St. Clair River freezes up and the barge takes longer … it must make its way through ice in order to pick up the asphalt and transport it,” said Suncor feedstock coordinator Stu Powell.

Enter the Iver Bright. The 111-metre Great Lakes tanker has been a familiar sight at the Suncor dock on River Road this past year.

“Out of 263 asphalt-carrying boats in the world, only 25% – or 65 vessels – fit our criteria,” Powell said.

“Fortunately, we found the Iver Bright, one of the few ice-rated vessels out there.”

While most ships in winter must rely on Canadian Coast Guard cutters for escort, the Bright can safely break through ice on its own, he added.

The company recently extended its one-year lease on the Netherlands-registered ship to a second year.