Irving Oil

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Irving Oil Limited
Industry Oil and Gas
Founded 1924 (1924)
Headquarters Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Key people
K. C. Irving, James, Arthur, and John E. Irving
Products Fuels, Lubricants, Petrochemicals

Irving Oil Ltd. is a gasoline, oil, and natural gas producing and exporting company. The company is privately owned by Arthur Irving and his family. It is considered part of the Irving Group of Companies.

Irving Oil operates the Irving Oil Refinery, Canada's largest refinery, as well as a network of gasoline stations, a fleet of oil tankers, real estate and other related assets.


Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving established Irving Oil Limited in 1924, when he was 25 years old. Using gasoline imported by rail, the first retailing location was in Bouctouche, New Brunswick. Irving moved to Saint John to open a Ford dealership and lubricants plant in 1924. The company expanded across the Maritimes through the 1930s, to Quebec in 1940, Newfoundland in 1949, and to Maine in 1972. Irving Oil opened a station in Torrington, CT (April 2011).[citation needed]

In 1977, Irving Oil became the first Canadian oil company to offer unleaded gasoline at its retail outlets. In the late 1990s it became the first oil company in Canada and one of the first in North America to offer gasoline with very low sulphur content, a fact which was recognized by many automobile manufacturers.[citation needed]

Due to its investment in reducing emissions, Irving Oil was one of the few energy companies in Canada to publicly support the Kyoto Accord.[1]

File:Big irving plant st john.JPG


Irving Canaport sign

In 1960 the company partnered with Standard Oil Co. of California (SOCAL) to build the Irving Oil Refinery in the east end of Saint John. Irving bought out SOCAL's share of the refinery in the late 1980s and expanded the facility to become Canada's largest refinery, processing over 300,000 barrels per day (48,000 m3/d). In the late 1990s, the refinery was upgraded to create some of North America's lowest-emission petroleum.

File:Grand Pre Irving 2007.jpg Since 1970 the refinery has been served by the Canaport crude oil receiving terminal southeast of Saint John. In 2009 this facility was expanded to host the Canaport LNG terminal for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG).[2]

Irving Oil announced in fall 2006 that it had purchased more land near Canaport and was examining the feasibility of constructing another 300,000-barrel (48,000 m3) refinery in the area to complement the original modernized 1960s-era refinery in the east end of Saint John; the new refinery was to be named the "Eider Rock Refinery" and was to be built under a partnership between Irving Oil and BP plc.[3] On July 24, 2009 both companies announced that they were indefinitely postponing plans to build the second refinery.[4]



Irving Oil's core retail area is in northeast North America and is well served by a network of regional ports and harbours in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and New England - an area that is under-served by pipelines. Consequently, the company economically transports much of its petroleum products to regional distribution terminals at ports throughout the region using its own fleet of coastal tankers.

In the 1990s, Irving Oil also took delivery of several Ultra Large Crude Carriers to deliver crude oil to the Saint John refinery from production locations in Venezuela, the Persian Gulf and the North Sea.


Irving Oil operates a large fleet of company-branded tanker trucks to deliver petroleum to retail locations from its Saint John refinery as well as the marine distribution terminals. Since the 1970s these semi-trailer tanker trucks were painted a distinctive golden yellow but the fleet underwent a paint scheme change in the 2000s to use white for both cab and trailer. Irving Oil's home heating fuel delivery truck fleet was similarly coloured and is undergoing a paint scheme change.

Sister company J.D. Irving Limited owns and operates RST Industries which provides road tanker transport services for Irving Oil's wholesale deliveries,[5] as well as for jet fuel, marine fuel, liquid asphalt, and other products.


Irving Oil once made extensive use of rail service to deliver petroleum from the Saint John refinery to rail-side distribution terminals throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The decline in rural branch rail lines operated by CN Rail and CP Rail in the 1980s and 1990s, combined with the increase of 4-lane highway construction, has seen Irving Oil eliminate practically all retail petroleum delivery by rail and the closure of many of its rail-side distribution terminals in favour of newer highway-served terminals or direct deliveries.

Irving Oil continues to make extensive use of rail service for wholesale petroleum deliveries from its Saint John refinery. Products such as propane, liquid asphalt and diesel are delivered daily to locations in Quebec and New England via New Brunswick Southern Railway, owned by sister company J.D. Irving Limited as well as by CN.

Retail network

Irving Oil operates bulk furnace oil and propane outlets in most major centres across Atlantic Canada, New England and Quebec as well as select locations in eastern Ontario, almost all of which are supplied from its Saint John refinery.

Irving Oil also operates 769 gas stations in these jurisdictions. In recent decades, smaller stations have been closed and consolidated as newer, larger facilities are constructed - Irving owns many choice real estate locations in communities across northeastern North America, some of which are no longer used for gas retailing, and others being held in speculation of some future need. Older stations are typically franchise operations and still have automobile service and repair shops, which in recent years are branded by Meineke.File:Irving STN NorthernNS.jpg

Convenience stores

Most of Irving Oil's corporate owned-and-operated stations also contain convenience stores. These locations operated as simply "Irving" stations until the late 1990s, when the "Mainway" banner ("Marché Mainway" in Quebec) was introduced; "Mainway" being a brand appropriated from one of Irving's U.S. acquisitions. By the early 2000s, the company's Quebec locations had been leased to the Couche-Tard chain and rebranded accordingly. At the same time, Irving began to renovate and rebrand its old "Mainway" stations under the name "Bluecanoe" as part of the company's modernization plan. The Bluecanoe brand was first introduced in New England and was introduced to some stations in eastern Ontario and the Atlantic provinces; however, many others were not upgraded and retained the older name "Mainway".

On May 8, 2008, Irving announced that they would lease the remaining "Mainway" and "Bluecanoe" retail stores at its stations in Canada and New England to Alimentation Couche-Tard, which is now the process of rebranding all of the stores as Circle K. Irving will continue to own the stations and supply their fuel, and the gasoline brand at these stations will remain "Irving". Irving stations in Quebec are expected to retain the "Couche-Tard" banner for the retail stores.

Irving stations in New England often contain an Amato's eXpress, Subway, or Quiznos.

File:Irving Big Stop.JPG

Big Stops

Irving Oil also operates several "Big Stops", which are truck stops featuring family restaurants, facilities for truck drivers, and convenience stores. These large stations are located at strategic locations throughout New England, the Maritimes, Quebec and Newfoundland.

They occupy several hectares near important highway interchanges and junctions and have been developed since the 1970s; some of the oldest Big Stops are still in operation with the interiors being evocative of that era. These locations, aside from their convenience store operations, continue to be operated by Irving Oil.

In the past decade, Irving Oil has opened several new Big Stops in New Brunswick to reflect the modernized and realigned arterial highway network in that province, and these facilities contain restaurants that have their own name and identity which are often reflective of the local area. The first modern Big Stop is in Salisbury, NB, and its restaurant is called "The Silver Fox"; the second one to open was in Lincoln, NB and has a restaurant called "The Blue Canoe"; the third was in Grand Falls, NB with a restaurant called "The Back Forty"; the most recent is in Enfield, NS with a restaurant called "Crossing" - the original name for the community.

File:Irving corp hq.JPG


Irving Oil and J.D. Irving Ltd. are private companies that are closely held by the Irving family. As a result, there isn't as much public information available on the company as there would be for a publicly traded organization. Like most oil companies, Irving Oil has a vertically integrated structure, although its structure isn't as comprehensive in its vertical integration as other oil businesses, such as ExxonMobil.[citation needed]

Examples of vertical integration within the "Irving Group of Companies" (as the Irving family refers to their holdings) include the acquisition or formation of businesses along the entire chain of production, from the Irving refinery (an Irving Oil subsidiary) and its retail outlets, to the transportation subsidiaries of J.D. Irving (RST, Midland, NB Southern, Sunbury), to various construction and engineering companies that assist in building, maintaining and expanding the conglomerate's facilities. Further examples of vertical integration within the conglomerate include Industrial Security Ltd. (ISL), the wholly owned security company that guards facilities, as well as industrial suppliers such as Thornes, Universal Sales and Commercial Equipment Ltd. which provide specialty goods and services to its companies. J.D. Irving, the sister firm to Irving Oil, is a dominant forestry company in northeastern North America, growing trees, harvesting trees and producing lumber, pulp and paper, and various enhanced value products such as newsprint, tissue, and personal care products. JDI also owns Brunswick News which controls most English-language newspapers in New Brunswick.

The Dominion newspaper, an independent Canadian newspaper, has criticized Irving's ownership of the New Brunswick Papers, as well as the papers' journalistic integrity, particularly when reporting on companies controlled by the Irving family such as Irving Oil.[6]

The city of Saint John, where Irving Oil is located, is closely tied to the Irving Group of Companies which are mostly headquartered there. In 2005, Irving Oil received a controversial tax break from the municipality to develop the Canaport LNG (liquid natural gas) terminal; it was apparently negotiated one-on-one with the city's then-mayor Norm MacFarlane.[7]

There was also conflict in Saint John over the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline that was to cross through a major municipal park. However, it is unknown if there would be any health risks to the community.

There have also been accusations of Irving family political patronage, notably involving Allan Rock and Claudette Bradshaw of the Liberal Party of Canada.[8]


The Irving Whale, an oil barge owned by Irving Oil's sister firm J.D. Irving Ltd., was carrying a cargo of 4300 tons of No. 6 fuel oil for Irving Oil when it sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on September 7, 1970, causing a large initial oil spill and subsequent leaks for the next 26 years until it was salvaged by the federal government on July 30, 1996.[9]

On June 9, 1998, William Hackett, a worker at the Irving Oil Refinery, was killed when a pressurized vessel exploded.[10]

In 2000, a contractor was killed at the Irving Oil Refinery when he fell out of a cherry picker bucket.[11]

On January 30, 2008, Joseph Omer Allain, a construction worker, died at the Canaport LNG facility after falling inside a tank; Canaport LNG is a joint venture between Irving Oil and Repsol.[12]

See also


  1. "Irving Oil supports greenhouse treaty". New Brunswick Environmental Network. CBC News. January 29, 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  2. Jones, Robert (2 June 2015). "Canaport deals help Irving Oil earn millions on LNG plant". CBC News. Retrieved 22 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Irving Oil plans second refinery for Saint John". CBC News. October 4, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Irving shelves 2nd Saint John refinery". CBC News. July 24, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Rail car propane leak safely resolved in Saint John". CBC News. 2 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Steuter, Erin (November 10, 2003). "Freedom of the Press is for Those Who Own One". The Dominion. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Mayor defends tax deal with Irving". CBC News. March 3, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Rock disregarded ethics ruling to advance Irvings' cause". National Post. October 20, 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Irving Whale goes down". CBC Digital Archives. January 31, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Accident Investigation Report on the Explosion and Fire at the Irving Oil Refinery Saint John, New Brunswick" (PDF). Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of New Brunswick. June 11, 1999. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Do You Use a Man Lift? Then you Better Know the Law!" (PDF). WHSCC News. Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of New Brunswick. 8 (2): 1. Fall 2002. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Worker dies at LNG construction site". CBC News. Jan 31, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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