SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Irving Oil, Canada’s largest exporter of gasoline, is now exploring the idea of constructing a power plant to export up to 1,500 megawatts of electricity generated by wind and natural gas to New England.

“We see ourselves as an energy company,” Jeff Matthews, Irving Oil’s director of business development, said Wednesday. “Power generation, natural gas and LNG (liquefied natural gas) have become an important part of our overall portfolio.”

Matthews was joined at a news conference in Saint John, N.B., by New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

Matthews said the company has been studying the project for about a year, but will need more time to determine whether it’s economically and environmentally feasible.

If the project proceeds, it would require a new transmission line that government officials envision as part of an energy corridor connecting New Brunswick with the New England states.

Officials did not provide an estimate of the costs of such an undertaking.

“The northeast energy corridor would a path to market to increase our region’s supply of secure, reliable and clean energy, attract investment and new economic development opportunities,” said Graham.

It has been two years since Graham and Baldacci signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to find ways to secure energy supply for their jurisdictions, and provide a way to export energy to power-hungry states to the south.

“The corridor would provide an opportunity to collocate multiple energy lines, cables and other infrastructure to safely and reliably move energy,” said the governor.

Both leaders stressed that every step would be subject to strict environmental impact reviews.

Matthews said building the transmission line would unlock a vast amount of potential for wind power in New Brunswick.

The natural gas component of the proposed facility would provide a base load of electricity that could be increased when the wind isn’t blowing.

At close to 1,500 megawatts of power, the facility would generate more than twice the 680 megawatts expected from New Brunswick’s Point Lepreau nuclear power plant once refurbishment is completed late this year.

While company officials say plans are far from complete, it’s expected the new plant would be located near the Irving liquefied natural gas facility in Saint John.

“Betting on any one form of energy is just too much of a risk,” Matthews said. “It’s why we built our refinery in a line formation so we could expand it, it’s why we have left room in our LNG plant for more tanks, it’s why we’re studying the possibility of building an energy corridor for the future _ whatever forms of energy that might bring.”

The company is also exploring the idea of tidal power, and getting close to making a decision on a second oil refinery in Saint John.

Matthews said while the company is exploring a range of options, the power transmission line would be the first project if they decide to proceed with the energy corridor.

The latest announcement about the energy corridor was welcomed by Tim Curry, president of the Atlantica Centre for Energy.

He said the Irving investment would unlock a lot of energy potential for the region – and New Brunswick’s future as an energy hub.

“I think that with this announcement you will see serious investors taking a second and a third look at the potential for renewable energy projects in the region now that they have some comfort that somebody’s going to address the transmission kind of initiatives,” Curry said.

New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir said the corridor could see the construction of multiple power transmission lines _ each built to meet growing demand.

And Keir said New Brunswick has the potential to funnel power to the United States from a variety of projects.

“I believe if we do this right and we move this project forward that there’s going to be capacity opportunities not only for a second reactor at Lepreau, and not only for an Irving gas-fired facility, but some Churchill (hydroelectricity) and wind as well.”

More details of the energy corridor project are expected when the New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers meet in Saint John in September.