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Alberta’s Mega Oil and Gas Liability Crisis, Explained

Alberta’s Mega Oil and Gas Liability Crisis, Explained

A Supreme Court ruling now forces firms to clean up abandoned wells before paying creditors. That doesn’t solve much.

RachelNotleyWells.jpg
How will Alberta find the billions of dollars needed to clean up its inactive pipelines, wells, plants and oilsands mines as the oil and gas industry enters its sunset years? Photo: Premier of Alberta Flickr.

Just how will an increasingly indebted industry, hobbled by low energy prices and rising costs, find the up to $260 billion needed to clean up its inactive pipelines, wells, plants and oilsands mines as it enters its sunset years?

To date permissive provincial regulations have created the problem by only requiring industry to set aside $1.6 billion for the job. 

That potentially leaves more than $200 billion in unfunded liabilities for taxpayers. 

Technically the 5-2 court decision will make it easier for provinces to prevent insolvent companies from selling assets to pay creditors while dumping the cleanup bill onto taxpayers.

That’s been a big problem in Western Canada, where lower provincial court decisions have allowed bankrupt firms to pay off banks first and ignore their cleanup obligations under provincial laws.

As a result, a number of firms in Alberta walked away from more than 1,800 inactive wells and dumped more than $110 million worth of liabilities onto the lap of the provincial regulator over the last three years.

The province’s Orphan Well Association, a non-profit supported by annual $30-million industry levies to prevent taxpayers from footing the cleanup bill, is now so overwhelmed that it was rescued with a $300-million loan from the province and federal government. 

The Orphan Well Association handled 74 orphan wells (properties with no legal or financial owner) in 2012. Now it has a backlog of 3,000 wells, with each well averaging $300,000 for plugging and reclamation.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alberta Is Playing a Dangerous Game with Pipeline Ad Campaign

Alberta Is Playing a Dangerous Game with Pipeline Ad Campaign

The anti-BC PR blitz fuels the anger of right-wing groups like the ‘yellow vests.’

Alberta-Ads.jpg
Alberta’s ad campaign, with its complaint of being ‘held hostage,’ risks unleashing destructive forces.

Tyee investigation revealed the expensive details of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s national public relations effort to scapegoat British Columbia, including dubious claims of pipeline benefits translated into Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Filipino and Punjabi. 

Not merely cynical and inaccurate, the campaign to portray Albertans as victims also risks emboldening a growing number of extremist elements hijacking “yellow vest” protests. 

Alberta government spin doctors apparently decided on a simplistic strategy of framing any opposition to Trans Mountain as “B.C. against Canada.”

The behind-the-scenes brain trust also arrived at two other Orwellian platitudes: “It’s senseless to pit the environment against the economy,” and, “This is a good thing” — a slogan that might be dreamed up if Martha Stewart worked for Burson-Marsteller

It’s not often that the roof is lifted off the sausage-making factory to reveal the political abattoir in operation. Such as they are, the arguments advanced in the national misinformation onslaught include such untruths as mythicalAsian markets, how expanding exports of unprocessed bitumen are somehow good for meeting our climate goals, and the biggest nose-stretcher of all: how much the absence of a pipeline is costing Canadians. Alberta first claimed it was losing $4 million a day in revenue. That became $40 million a day for all Canadians. Wait! Now it’s $80 million. Isn’t all mathematics really just a matter of opinion?

Government-funded ad campaigns are conveniently unencumbered by the same standards of advertising accuracy required by the private sector — a loophole used to great effect by the authors behind this effort. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alberta Has Spent $23 Million Calling BC an Enemy of Canada

Alberta Has Spent $23 Million Calling BC an Enemy of Canada

Tyee FOI reveals pro-pipeline PR strategy, spiraling costs.

The Alberta government has spent more than $23 million — twice as much as previously revealed — in a campaign designed to turn the rest of Canada against B.C., The Tyee has learned.

The “KeepCanadaWorking” ad and PR campaign’s top “principle” states, “This is not B.C. vs. Alberta, this is B.C. vs. Canada,” according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

The documents show how an “ethnic campaign” targeted residents of the Lower Mainland, Toronto suburbs and Ottawa who speak “Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Filipino, Punjabi.”

Work first began in January, 2018 to create the campaign that promotes expanding the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the volume of Alberta bitumen sent through the port of Vancouver.

As recently as Nov. 14, 2018, Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP government stated it had spent $10 million on the campaign.

On Jan. 7, 2019, the Alberta government told The Tyee the amount had reached $23,040,463.90.

The province’s self-described “full-service” public relations arm, the Communications and Public Engagement (CPE) department, named that figure in an email responding to Freedom of Information requests filed by The Tyee.

In the past two months, Alberta has dumped more than $13 million into its pro-pipeline public relations push, a provincial government spokesperson confirmed to The Tyee.

What did $23 million in taxpayer money buy?

Internal Alberta government documents obtained by The Tyee reveal the top “principle” of the so-called “KeepCanadaWorking” campaign: “This is not B.C. vs. Alberta, this is B.C. vs. Canada.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There’s No Sugarcoating Canada’s Oil Crisis

There’s No Sugarcoating Canada’s Oil Crisis

Cenovus rig

Has financial disaster been averted in Canada’s oil and gas industry?

‘Disaster’ is all relative. Let’s just say 2019 is going to be a difficult year following a tough set of recent circumstances.

One thing we know is that the recent episode of bargain-basement commodity prices—triggered by a regional glut of oil and gas looking for a pipeline to call home, combined with low international oil prices—has wounded this year’s outlook for conventional oilfield activity. That’s the segment of the business, outside the oil sands, where two-thirds of the industry’s spending typically occurs.

Beyond the tight orbit of Fort McMurray’s oil sands, in the broader oil and gas fields of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the overt indicator of sectoral health is drilling activity. Like counting cars on a freeway, you know the economy is bad if there are only a few commuters on the road.

It’s looking pretty bad for the first quarter. We’re entering the peak ‘rush hour’ of the winter drilling season with only 180 bits turning on active rigs. The level of activity is feeling a lot like the depths of 2016, the lowest New Year’s entry in decades (see Figure 1).

For comparison, last year at this time the rig count was climbing toward a more stable February peak of 348. But stability is hardly in the energy dictionary right now. Volatile discounts, weak international prices, illiquid equity markets and a never-ending pipeline drama has spooked those with money and hollowed those without. It’s pretty simple really: No confidence plus no money equals no drilling. That’s what was happening late last year.

Having said that, the very real potential for fiscal disaster was averted. To clear the late ’18 production glut, the government of Alberta stepped into the market with a mandatory oil curtailment (8.7 percent across the board).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s Crude Oil Production Cuts Are Unsustainable

Canada’s Crude Oil Production Cuts Are Unsustainable

Canada oil

In an attempt to combat a ballooning oil glut and dramatically plummeting prices, the premier of Alberta Rachel Notley introduced an unprecedented measure at the beginning of December when she is mandating that oil companies in her province cut production. This directive was particularly surprising in the context of Canada’s free market economy, where oil production is rarely so directly regulated.

Canada’s recent oil glut woes are not due to a lack of demand, but rather a severe lack of pipeline infrastructure. There is plenty of demand, and more than enough supply, but no way to get the oil flowing where it needs to go. Canada’s pipelines are running at maximum capacity, storage facilities are filled to bursting, and the pipeline bottleneck has only continued to worsen. Now, in an effort to alleviate the struggling industry, Alberta’s oil production has been cut 8.7 percent according to the mandate set by the province’s government under Rachel Notley with the objective of cutting out around 325,000 barrels per day from the Canadian market.

Even before the government stepped in, some private oil companies had already self-imposed production caps in order to combat the ever-expanding glut and bottomed-out oil prices. Cenovus Energy, Canadian Natural Resource, Devon Energy, Athabasca Oil, and others announced curtailments that totaled around 140,000 barrels a day and Cenovus Energy, one of Canada’s major producers, even went so far as to plead with the government to impose production caps late last year.

So far, the government-imposed productive caps have been extremely successful. In October Canadian oil prices were so depressed that the Canadian benchmark oil Western Canadian Select (WCS) was trading at a whopping $50 per barrel less than United States benchmark oil West Texas Intermediate (WTI). now, in the wake of production cuts, the price gap between WCS and WTI has diminished by a dramatic margin to a difference of just under $13 per barrel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Another Crucial Canadian Pipeline Runs Into Trouble

Another Crucial Canadian Pipeline Runs Into Trouble

LNG canada

Late last year, Royal Dutch Shell gave the greenlight to a massive LNG export terminal on Canada’s Pacific Coast, one of the largest investments in LNG in years. But like other fossil fuel projects in Canada, the plans have run into some trouble.

Shell’s LNG Canada project hinges on a crucial pipeline that will connect gas fields along the border of British Columbia and Alberta to the Pacific coast at Kitimat. The Coastal GasLink pipeline is to be constructed by TransCanada (or, rather TC Energy, as the company now wants to be known).

The Coastal GasLink pipeline was supposed to mark a departure from previous long distance pipelines in Canada – a project that would, from the start, adequately consult with First Nations. Prior pipeline projects – Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Line 3; TransCanada’s Energy East; as well as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion – ran into stiff resistance from various First Nations.

TransCanada hoped that Coastal GasLink would be different. But, it too is now meeting resistance. Members of the Wet’suwet’en nation threw up makeshift barricades to stop construction on their land in recent weeks. On January 7, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke through those barricades and arrested at least 14 people. RCMP said it was enforcing a court order, but the clash made national and international headlines.

The situation is complex because the Wet’suwet’en nation never signed a treaty with Canada, so their territory is neither ceded nor even formally acknowledged by Canada. “What I see is a long history of the Canadian government doing its best to avoid acknowledging the existence of other systems of government,” Gordon Christie, a scholar of indigenous law at the University of British Columbia, told The Guardian.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil’s Wild Price Swings Set to Create Global Chaos

Oil’s Wild Price Swings Set to Create Global Chaos

Volatility is here to stay — and the political and economic implications will touch us all.

As the current global oil glut shakes up petro states around the world, oil prices are becoming more volatile than Donald Trump tweets.

Neither Canada, now the dumb owner of a marginal 65-year-old pipeline, nor Alberta, a key exporter of bitumen, a cheap refinery feedstock, has paid much attention to this revolution.

As a consequence Canada has no strategy to deal with the new normal of highly volatile oil prices.

Government incompetence explains the hew and cry in Alberta about its overproduction crisis and the various proposals to solve it, ranging from the purchase of rail cars (a bad idea) to the decision to order companies to cut production of heavy oil by about 325,000 barrels a day (a sensible idea).

Alberta’s panic attack is based on the idea that bitumen from the province’s oilsands producers is selling at a discount because of a lack of pipeline capacity.

The reality is that the dramatic 30-per-cent drop in oil prices since the beginning of October, from more than US$70 to US$50, is upsetting oil exporters, producers and markets around the world.

Different kinds of oil fetch different prices, based on their quality and transportation costs. And all are experiencing dramatic price drops. Alberta’s bitumen, a cheap refinery feedstock, is not the only crude languishing during a global market glut.

Refineries in Japan and Korea, for example, scooped up cheap U.S. oil earlier this year.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s Forgotten Man: Energy Workers

Canada’s Forgotten Man: Energy Workers

All over the world, the forgotten man is rising up, reminding the ruling elite of his existence. Fed up with leaders catering to the whims of 0.05% of society, or instituting policies that impact their pocketbooks, the working folks of America, Italy, Brazil, and France are making sure their voices are heard in the political arena. This uncomfortable fact is sending shivers up and down their masters’ spines, including those in the Great White North.

Ivory Tower

For so long, Canadians were passive and apathetic about how they were treated by their rulers. They just drowned their sorrows of excessive taxation and abuse of the public purse in a Tim Hortons double-double and a plate of poutine. That’s just the way it is, they cried. There’s nothing to do, they grieved.

It is this level of arrogance that puts Trudeau and his minions out of touch with typical Canadians.

But then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau happened.

The trust fund baby is a man who continually talks down to those who are not like him. By encouraging young people to use “peoplekind,” openly wishing that Ottawa would embrace a Chinese-style government, and suggesting citizens with real concerns about Syrian migrants are racist, Trudeau has begun to light the populist spark from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

To truly comprehend the left’s disdain for blue-collar Canadians who do not accept the premises of leftist dogma, you will need to travel to Calgary, Alberta. At a recent demonstration of energy workers, Liberal Mayor Naheed Nenshi treated the crowd like kindergarteners:

“Well, for those of you who are saying, ‘No I don’t believe in climate change,’ good luck changing hearts and minds because we have to be able to say that there is no difference between standing up for the economy and standing up for the environment.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s Natural Gas Crisis Is Being Ignored

Canada’s Natural Gas Crisis Is Being Ignored

Gas pipelines

“Alberta and its natural gas producers face a daunting crisis,” Alberta’s Natural Gas Advisory Panel said in a report in December, highlighting the challenges that natural gas producers in Alberta face in market access and pricing for their commodity.

Industry officials and analysts say that the situation with the steep natural gas discounts in Canada to the U.S. Henry Hub benchmark is similar to the huge discounts of Canada’s heavy oil benchmark—the Western Canadian Select—to the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI).

The record-low oil prices in Canada have attracted a lot of media attention in the past few months, but the steep discounts and volatile prices of Alberta’s natural gas have received less attention, although the pricing and problems are similar.

“It’s absolutely a similar situation,” Advantage Oil and Gas president and chief executive Andy Mah told the Financial Post.

Like oil, natural gas prices have also been suffering from the steep discounts, but the attention has been on oil “because of the slower decline in natural gas prices,” Mah told Geoffrey Morgan of the Financial Post.

According to Samir Kayande, director at RS Energy, the natural gas prices discounts have been plaguing the industry for longer and the problem has been “far worse than it is for oil.”

“Gas is such a forgotten commodity now,” Kayande told the Financial Post.

Alberta’s government has recently taken drastic measures to prop up the price of heavy oil in Canada, but it has yet to address the distressed natural gas pricing.

Natural gas “is just as important (as oil), it’s just not getting the same kind of attention as oil” but that could soon change, a government official told the Financial Post.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alberta’s Problem Isn’t Pipelines; It’s Bad Policy Decisions

Alberta’s Problem Isn’t Pipelines; It’s Bad Policy Decisions

Bitumen prices are low because the province has ignored at least a decade of warnings.

The Alberta government has known for more than a decade that its oilsands policies were setting the stage for today’s price crisis.

Which makes it hard to take the current government seriously when it tries to blame everyone from environmentalists to other provinces for what is a self-inflicted economic problem.

In 2007, a government report warned that prices for oilsands bitumen could eventually fall so low that the government’s royalty revenues — critical for its budget — would be at risk.

The province should encourage companies to add value to the bitumen by upgrading and refining it into gasoline or diesel to avoid the coming price plunge, the report said.

Instead, the government has kept royalties — the amount the public gets for the resource — low and encouraged rapid oilsands development, producing a market glut.

With North American pipelines largely full, U.S. oil production surging and U.S. refineries working at full capacity, Alberta has wounded itself with bad policy choices, say experts.

The Alberta government and oil industry is in crisis mode because the gap between the price paid for Western Canadian Select — a blend of heavy oil and diluent — and benchmark West Texas Intermediate oils has widened to $40 US a barrel.

Some energy companies have called on the government to impose production cuts to increase prices.

The business case for slowing bitumen production was made by the great Fort McMurray fire of 2015.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is This The Next Disaster For Canadian Drillers?

Is This The Next Disaster For Canadian Drillers?

Oil infrastructure

The government of Alberta this week took an unprecedented decision to enforce a crude oil production cut so excess inventories could be shrunk and the price of western Canadian grades could improve, but the industry’s problems are far from over. They will be among the hardest hit by the International Maritime Organization’s new emission rules, to enter into effect in two years, which will require a reduction of the sulfur content of bunkering fuel to 0.5 percent from 3.5 percent.

“We’ve got challenges with respect to pipelines, we’ve got challenges with respect to rail and now we’ve got challenges with respect to our demand market,” Bloomberg quoted the chief executive officer of the Canadian Energy Research Institute as saying at a presentation this week. The emission rules will start affecting the price of Canadian crude next year, Allan Fogwill, along with other analysts, believes.

Canadian crude is heavy and sour, that is, high in sulfur content, which is the obvious reason why the IMO changes would affect prices, adding to already substantial pressure from pipeline bottlenecks and the rising amount of crude that is being transported by costlier rail.

According to IHS Markit analyst Kurt Barrow, the emission rules will make Canadian crude another $7-8 cheaper than West Texas Intermediate in 2019. Even the completion of the Line 3 replacement project won’t offset these losses, although it will add 375,000 bpd to daily pipeline capacity.

Another analyst, Wood Mackenzie research director Mark Oberstoetter, told Bloomberg Western Canadian Select will likely be US$20 cheaper than WTI for most of 2019, which is the cost of railway transportation for Albertan heavy crude. All in all, things are looking pretty bad. But how bad is bad?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

IT BEGINS… Rapidly Falling Oil Prices First Guts Tar Sands, Then Shale Oil

IT BEGINS… Rapidly Falling Oil Prices First Guts Tar Sands, Then Shale Oil

The rapidly falling oil prices have finally claimed the first victim, but it won’t be the last.  The Alberta Canadian government announced late yesterday for a substantial cut in tar sands oil production to stem the hemorrhaging low oil price.  The price paid for tar sands oil has fallen a stunning 77% from its peak just two months ago.

While the Canadian tar sands oil price has fallen the most, various U.S. benchmarks are also experiencing substantial discounts to the standard West Texas Crude Oil price.  For example, the price paid for Bakken oil has dropped by 42% from its peak in October.  This is terrible news for the shale oil producers in North Dakota.

However, as bad as the situation is becoming for the U.S. oil industry, it isn’t as bad as the disaster taking place in Alberta, Canada.  According to the Zerohedge article, Alberta Orders “Unprecedented” Oil Output Cut To Combat Crashing Prices:

So in a long-awaited and according to local energy traders, overdue response, Canada’s largest oil producing province ordered what Bloomberg called “an unprecedented output cut”, an effort to ease a worsening crisis in the nation’s energy industry and adding to global actions to combat a recent price crash ahead of this week’s OPEC+ summit where oil exporters will similarly seek to slash output.

… The plan, which was announced late on Sunday, will reduce production of raw crude and bitumen from Alberta by 325,000 barrels a day, or 8.7% from January until excess oil in storage is drawn down. The reduction would then drop to 95,000 barrels a day until the end of next year at the latest.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alberta Intervenes To Halt Canada’s Oil Crisis

Alberta Intervenes To Halt Canada’s Oil Crisis

oil sands

Oil prices rose on Monday, buoyed by coordinated production cuts – cuts that did not come from Vienna (although that too could occur later this week).

Instead, the mandatory reductions were handed down by the provincial government of Alberta. “Perhaps OPEC should therefore consider inviting Canada to its meeting on Friday,” Commerzbank said in a note.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced the production cuts “in response to the historically high oil price differential that is costing the national economy more than $80 million per day,” her office said in a statement. Western Canada Select (WCS) has plunged below $15 per barrel, representing a discount to WTI that has hovered at around $40 per barrel.

“The price gap is caused by the federal government’s decades-long inability to build pipelines. Ottawa’s failure in this area has left Alberta’s energy producers with few options to move their products, resulting in serious risks for the energy industry and Alberta jobs,” the Alberta Premier’s office said.

Alberta’s oil industry is producing roughly 190,000 bpd in excess of available takeaway capacity. The surplus is filling storage up quickly. Oil producers will be required to make cuts on the order of 8.7 percent, or 325,000 bpd, beginning in January. Once the storage glut is reduced, the cuts will narrow to just 95,000 bpd, which will stay in place through the duration of 2019.

The first 10,000 bpd for each producer will be excluded from the mandatory cuts, intended to avoid negatively impacting small producers. The baseline used to calculate the cuts will be the highest level of production for each producer over the past six months.

Notley expects the production cuts to boost prices for WCS by roughly $4 per barrel, adding $1.1 billion to government revenue between 2019 and 2020.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alberta Orders “Unprecedented” Oil Output Cut To Combat Crashing Prices

While just a few hundred miles south, WTI is flirting with the one year low price of $50/barrel, Canada’s oil-producing hub, Alberta, would be ecstatic to have its oil trade at anything even remotely close to this level.

As we reported recently, Canadian oil producers are in an increasingly tough predicament. With high and increasing oil demand around the globe over the last year, Canadian oil production has increased accordingly. All of this is simple and predictable economics, but in the process Canadian oil hit a massive roadblock. Producers have the supply, and they have more than enough demand, but they don’t have the means to make the connection. Canadian export pipelines simply don’t have the capacity to keep up with either the supply or the demand.

Canadian oil producers have now maxed out their storage capacity, and the Canadian glut continues to grow while they wait for a solution to the pipeline problem to materialize. As pipeline space is at a premium and storage has hit maximum capacity, oil prices have fallen dramatically, and the differentials that had previously been hitting heavy oil hard in Canada (now at below $14 a barrel for the first time since 2016) have now spread to light oil and upgraded synthetic oil sands crude as well, leaving overall Canadian oil prices at record lows.

So in a long-awaited and according to local energy traders, overdue response, Canada’s largest oil producing province ordered what Bloomberg called “an unprecedented output cut”, an effort to ease a worsening crisis in the nation’s energy industry and adding to global actions to combat a recent price crash ahead of this week’s OPEC+ summit where oil exporters will similarly seek to slash output (something which all OPEC+ nations agree upon, but nobody wants to be the first to cut its own production).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

TAR SANDS OPERATIONS GO FROM BAD TO WORSE: Now Losing Billions A Month

TAR SANDS OPERATIONS GO FROM BAD TO WORSE: Now Losing Billions A Month

The situation at Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands Operations has gone from bad to worse as the super-low oil price is now costing the industry billions of dollars each month.  Unbelievably, the price for the Western Canadian Select heavy oil fell to a gut-wrenching $14.65 yesterday down from a high of $58 in May.  Tar sands oil is now selling at an amazing $40 discount to U.S. West Texas Oil which is trading at $56.

The main reasons for the falling price of Alberta tar sands are due to Canadian pipelines full to capacity as well as midwest U.S. refineries shut down for seasonal maintenance.  Furthermore, the announcement by a U.S. Federal Judge to block the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on November 9th, didn’t help.

According to data from the Natural Resources Canada, the Alberta Tar Sands Operations were producing 2.7 million barrels per day (mbd) of oil in 2017.  I would imagine production this year is likely to reach close to 3 mbd.  The largest tar sands producer in Alberta is Suncor.  Suncor produced a record 476,000 barrels per day of tar sands in the third quarter of 2018.

Now, Suncor reported a handsome $1.4 billion profit in Q3 2018 on $8.3 billion in revenues.  However, that profit was based on much higher Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil price which was trading over an average of $35 for the quarter.  Unfortunately, the average price of WCS so far in the fourth quarter is $20.75.  And, if the price of WCS stays at the current low price, the tar sands operators will be receiving less than $20 a barrel.

In the article, Capacity shortages costing Canadian producers $100M/day, it stated:

“Heavy-oil producers are getting 40 percent of what they normally would be paid if we had access to markets,” said Grant Fagerheim, CEO of Calgary-based Whitecap Resources, which produces about 60,000 barrels per day.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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