Canadian Biomass Magazine

‘Flying planes by french fries’: Come by Chance refinery producing diesel from used cooking oil

May 2, 2024
By Sanuda Ranawake, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Todd O’Malley, Braya Renewable Fuels chief executive officer, speaks to reporters during the facility's 50th-anniversary event at the Come By Chance refinery Wednesday afternoon. - Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The Come By Chance refinery is turning 50 years old, and owner Braya Renewable Fuels says the refinery has successfully commenced operations.

Once a traditional crude oil refinery, it now uses used cooking oil, among other oils, to produce diesel and jet fuel.

The refinery, once the biggest emitter of carbon in the province, will now be one of the lowest industrial emitters, says Premier Andrew Furey, one of many attendees at a celebration Wednesday of the refinery’s 50-year anniversary.

Major employer


Starting at 18,000 barrels per day, and with hopes for further expansion, the refinery employs about 240 full-time staff.

Paul Burton is one of them, having worked at the refinery for 28 years. He’s now the manager.

“Last month, we announced the safe startup of our newly converted renewable diesel refinery. We’ve been able to adapt the refinery to meet the evolving needs of industry and pave the way to a greener, more sustainable future for Canada and the world,” Burton said.

Numbers speak for themselves

Furey says the refinery has an impressive future.

“The facts and statistics of what this will contribute are undoubtable and speak for themselves. Whether that’s producing 18,000 barrels a day moving upward. Whether it’s the largest renewable jet aviation fuel facility in the entire country,” he said.

“Whether it’s the fact that it’s employing 240 full-time, good, well-paying jobs. Whether it’s the $1.6-billion investment. Or whether it’s the fact that it represents something new for Newfoundland and Labrador. Those are all true facts.”

Beyond the numbers

Furey says the Come By Chance story goes beyond the facts and figures. He says it’s an iconic piece of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“There’s something more than the factual component of this facility. There’s something more than the statistics. And what I came to realize was it’s the symbolism of this place,” Furey says.

“Everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador drives by Come By Chance and looks for the flame. Because the flame was a symbol of hope, a symbol of prosperity, a symbol of jobs and a thriving economy. And then 2020 happened.”

Livelihoods at risk

Furey says Come By Chance was one of his first projects as premier, and he is excited that the refinery is operational, and people’s livelihoods aren’t at risk anymore.

“It’s exciting for the people of Come By Chance. It’s exciting for the people who work in this incredible facility. But more importantly, it’s exciting for the entire province. This is a true symbol of prosperity, of a new economic horizon and the fact that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can win on both sides of this green transition equation,” he said.

“The business model works. The nice thing for us as a government is that we supported it to keep it going, to keep the parts running. But now it’s providing clean diesel to the rest of the world. It works because the business model works, it works because of tax credits in other parts of the world.”


Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons echoed those thoughts, and said the project is a world-leading one.

“Having driven by it my entire life, I don’t think I knew the impact of Come By Chance, not just on the local area, but on the province and every aspect of the province, and what we did was we dug in. We dug in, we got down to it and formed partnerships and friendships and relationships and that has led to here,” Parsons said.

“When we see the vast amount of money that has been spent here, the people hours that have been worked and something new that is contributing to the world, not just Canada, it’s a pretty cool feeling to be up here and be able to see this today.”

Furey says the project is a win-win and adds to the province’s portfolio of projects in the green revolution.

“I’ve been saying for quite some time that we have in Newfoundland and Labrador what the world needs right now. We have all the key ingredients, whether that’s in the hydroelectric space or the hydrogen space or in this facility here. So, we can win on both sides.”


Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan called the project extraordinary.

“Sustainable aviation fuel. Renewable diesel. Who knew that something good could come from all the french fries we’ve been eating? Cooking oil, flying planes. God almighty, dig in. It’s extraordinary and this place now is the number one in Canada, the number one refinery and one of only four or five refineries in the world that is doing this,” O’Regan said.

Flying planes by french fries. We did it here first. If there was anybody on the planet who was going to figure that out, it was going to be us.”

Beyond California

O’Regan said the refinery sells diesel to California now, since they are the highest bidder. He says there are plans to expand potential customers beyond California, including within Canada.

Braya Renewable Fuels CEO Todd O’Malley echoed the same, adding that there are existing customers outside California already.

He says the diesel produced at Come By Chance is a drop-in fuel, meaning it is the equivalent to regular, traditional diesel. He says diesel from the refinery can be used to power trucks, trains, generators, and a variety of other diesel-powered machines.

O’Malley says the cost to manufacture the diesel at Come By Chance is no higher than regular diesel, and it’s of the same quality, with reduced environmental impact.

Sanuda Ranawake is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous and rural issues.

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