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Canadian refiner Irving Oil explores options including sale

Irving Oil, the owner of Canada’s largest petroleum refinery, has launched a strategic review of the private company that could result in a sale or a change in its sprawling energy portfolio.

The company, founded in 1924, is owned by Canada’s wealthy Irving family. Their Irving Group of Companies conglomerate, which includes a forestry business, a shipbuilding unit and logistics operations, is an industrial powerhouse in the province of New Brunswick.

Irving Oil’s refinery processes 320,000 barrels of oil a day in Saint John, New Brunswick. It also operates more than 900 petrol stations in eastern Canada and New England in the US and distributes refined fuel products. The only refinery in Ireland is operated by Irving Oil.

Arthur Irving, chair of Irving Oil, is one of Canada’s richest people with a net worth of $5.3bn, according to Bloomberg. The Irving family is one of Canada’s most important business dynasties and has shown extensive philanthropic heft, including an $80mn donation to Dartmouth College in the US, which led to the creation of the Arthur L Irving Institute for Energy and Society.

Until 2022 the family owned all the major newspapers in New Brunswick, which it sold to Postmedia, Canada’s biggest newspaper chain, known for its preference for conservative politicians. Jamie Irving, a member of the family, became Postmedia’s executive chair after the sale.

As a private company, Irving Oil does not disclose its finances. The company’s website says it employs more than 4,000. It had cut more than 1,000 jobs during the coronavirus pandemic as demand for oil slumped. At the same time, Irving has invested in reducing its carbon emissions and growing its hydrogen production business.

A statement on Irving Oil’s website said a “series of options are being evaluated related to the company’s future”. It did not provide a reason for the launch of the strategic review.

“We are proud of the strong position our company is in today, having achieved significant growth in our core business and making good progress in leading through the energy transition,” the statement said.

“No decisions have been made about where this strategic review may lead,” the statement said.

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