Irving Oil Ltd., the operator of Canada’s largest crude refinery, is reviewing strategic options that may include putting billions of dollars worth of key North American refining and fuel-distribution assets up for sale.

Other options include a change in the portfolio of its assets and how it operates them, though “no decisions have been made about where this strategic review may lead,” the company said on its website Wednesday. 

The review raises the possibility that some important North American downstream facilities may change hands. Irving’s refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, has the capacity to process 320,000 barrels of oil a day and supplies gasoline to much of the U.S. Northeast as well as eastern Canada. Irving also runs more than 900 filling stations in eastern Canada and New England, a refinery in Ireland and sells heating oil and propane.

The New Brunswick refinery is valued at roughly US$2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Irving’s Whitegate Refinery in County Cork, Ireland, has a 75,000 barrel-per-day capacity and is worth an estimated $185.7 million. 

The Irvings are one of Canada’s wealthiest families — famous for their secrecy and their control of natural resources in the eastern part of the country, particularly the province of New Brunswick. The company is owned by Arthur Irving and was part of a commodity conglomerate founded by his father, K.C. Irving. Arthur Irving, whose signature is on Wednesday’s statement, is the country’s 16th-richest person with a net worth of $5.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The New Brunswick plant has been a buyer of crude oil from the Bakken formation of North Dakota and is generally the sole Canadian purchaser of Saudi crude oil. 

The potential sale comes as many such plants in North America have closed or converted to processing biofuels as motor-fuel demand wanes. That includes the Come-By-Chance refinery in Newfoundland, which went offline during the pandemic.