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Irving Oil

Irving Oil
Headquarters Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Key peopleK. C. Irving, James, Arthur, and John E. Irving
IndustryOil and Gas
ProductsFuels, Lubricants, Petrochemicals
Slogan"See You There"

Irving Oil is a privately owned gasoline, oil, and natural gas producing and exporting company. It is also one of the only energy companies in Canada to publicly support the Kyoto Accord when in 2003, Arthur Irving said in an interview when asked to cmment on the accord, "I think anything that really helps the environment in the long haul there, it's good for everybody and everybody will benefit from it." However, Irving Oil has plans to build the first new crude oil refinery to be built in North America in over 25 years. With a refining capacity of 300 000 barrels a day, it would drastically increase the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutant emissions. Its headquarters are in Saint John, New Brunswick.



Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving established Irving Oil Limited in 1924, when he was 25 years old.The first retailing location was in Bouctouche, New Brunswick. Irving moved to Saint John to open a Ford dealership and lubricants plant in 1931. The company expanded across the Maritimes through the 1930s, to Québec in 1940, Newfoundland in 1949, and to Maine in 1972.

In 1977, Irving 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. 


In 1960 the company built an oil refinery at Saint John in partnership with Chevron. Irving bought out Chevron's share of the refinery in the late 1980s and expanded the facility to become Canada's largest refinery, processing over 250,000 barrels per day. In the late 1990s, the refinery was upgraded to create some of North America's lowest-emission petroleum.

The refinery is served by the Canaport Marine Terminal at Mispec, southeast of Saint John. The terminal was constructed in 1970 to handle crude oil, and is currently being expanded to handle liquefied natural gas (LNG).

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/day refinery in the area to complement the modernized 1960s-era facility. [3]


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, while underserved 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 also operates a large fleet of trucks to deliver petroleum from its distribution terminals to retail locations and also uses rail service.

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. 

Most of Irving Oil's corporate owned-and-operated stations also contain convenience stores. In Quebec, many of these are affiliated with the Couche-Tard chain. Throughout the rest of the Irving network the company is rebranding 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 is being spread to stores in Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces.

Irving Oil also operates several "Big Stops", which are truck stops featuring family restaurants, facilities for professional drivers, and convenience stores. These large stations are located across the entire region and occupy several hectares near important highway interchanges and junctions; they have been developed since the 1970s, and some of the oldest Big Stops are still in operation with the interiors being evocative of that era. 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, and its restaurant is called "The Silver Fox"; the second one to open was in Lincoln and has a restaurant called "The Blue Canoe"; and the newest one is in Grand Falls with a restaurant called "The Back Forty" . Not surprisingly, this restaurant takes up 40% of the back of the building.


 The Irving family holdings, most notably Irving Oil and J.D. Irving Ltd. are extensive, and due to the private nature of the companies, few specifics are available regarding their operations, structure and profits. Irving has been characterized by its ability to vertically integrate its business in order to dominate an industry. Examples of this include its acquisition or formation of businesses to control the entire chain of production, from the Irving refinery (Irving Oil) to its transportation companies (RST, Midland), and its retail outlets, as well as its various construction companies (Irving Equipment Ltd, Ocean Steel Ltd, Strescon Ltd) that assist in building, maintaining and expanding its facilities. Further examples of Irving integration include Industrial Security Ltd (ISL), the wholly-owned security company that guards its facilities. In addition, the company owns industrial suppliers such as Thornes, Universal Sales, and Commercial Equipment Ltd which provide goods and services to other Irving companies. There is an acknowledged effort on the part of the company to buy from subsidiaries and affiliates in order to dominate the market and extract profits at all stages of production.

The result of this integration is seen in the city of Saint John, where the economic welfare of the city has been tied to the economic well-being of the Irving family of companies. This is further exacerbated by the fact that New Brunswick's three major newspapers are wholly owned and operated by an Irving company. This has resulted in several well-founded accusations of suspect journalistic integrity[1].

Irving Oil has also come under fire for its negotiation with the City of Saint John in regards to the Canaport LNG terminal and a behind-closed-doors tax deal negotiated with city mayor Norm MacFarlane.[2] This deal perpetuated feelings among some in the community that Irving was more powerful than elected officials. This was only compounded when it was proposed that the LNG pipeline be constructed through a major municipal park, which poses a potential threat to local residents.

There have also been accusations of political patronage, notably involving Allan Rock and Claudette Bradshaw of the Liberal Party of Canada[3]. This has also contributed to cynicism among concerned citizens. Despite public suspicion and general feelings of distrust toward the Irvings, the majority of New Brunswickers are closely tied to the company, as they are the largest employer in the region. Despite their anti-competitive actions, and lack of transparency, they continue to grow and assert their economic dominance on the area.

See also

  • Kenneth Colin Irving
  • J.D. Irving Limited


  1. ^ [1], The Dominion, Nov 10, 2003
  2. ^ [2], CBC News, March 3, 2006,
  3. ^ "Rock disregarded ethics ruling to advance Irvings' cause"-National Post October 20, 2003
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Irving_Oil". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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