Canada’s Oil Production to Double By 2030 Thanks to Oil Sands -Report

The Irving Oil refinery, Canada’s largest, in Saint John, New Brunswick. New pipelines from Western Canada to refineries in the East could increase Canada’s oil revenues while reducing energy costs to Canadian consumers and businesses (Wikipedia)

A new report by Canada’s largest association of petroleum companies projects that the country’s oil production will double to 6.7 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2030 as a result of increased production in Northern Alberta’s oil sands region.

The outlook, published by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, estimates that production in the oil sands will increase from 1.8 million bpd in 2012 to 5.2 million bpd by 2030, which would constitute over three-quarters of Canada’s total oil production.

The largest market opportunities that will emerge from this increase in production will be in North America according to the report, by providing an alternative to foreign imports.

One of the major challenges for the country’s petroleum industry, says the report, is transportation of the crude oil to where it’s needed in other parts of North America, as well as to the country’s coasts where it can be exported to overseas markets.

Rail transport is quickly becoming a more common way to meet these transportation needs. The report notes that 12,989 rail cars transported oil in February 2013, a 60 percent increase from February 2012.

The increasing reliance on rail has been a reaction to new political obstacles hampering transportation infrastructure development. As cultural attitudes toward pipelines in Canada have deteriorated, two major political parties in Canada, the NDP and the Liberal Party, to different degrees, have come out against planned pipeline projects.

With Canada’s oil pipelines reaching capacity and this new resistance to their expansion, the more expensive rail transport method is being seen as the next-best option.

Economic impact

The rise in oil production is expected to have major consequences for Canada’s future fiscal health. While most of the developed world is expected to face economic difficulties over the next several decades, due to increased government expenditures on social welfare programs for their ageing populations, revenue from the new oil production is projected to compensate for this economic burden in Canada.

The Western provinces of Canada, where most of the new oil production as well as other natural resource extraction growth is taking place, are already becoming the bright spots of the Canadian economy, with lower unemployment rates and faster economic growth than the rest of the country.

Alberta, at the epicenter of the resource boom, currently has the highest per capita GDP in the country. Neighboring Saskatchewan, another resource-rich province, meanwhile has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and the second higher per capita GDP.

The disparity in job opportunities between Western and Eastern Canada has led to the migration of tens of thousands of Canadians to the western prairie provinces, as well as thousands of immigrants, who are willing to brave the cold of the prairies for better job prospects.

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Increase in US Oil Production Threatens Canada’s Oil Sands

An oil rig in Northern British Columbia. The oil and gas industry is vital to the economy of Western Canadian provinces

Canadian energy producers exported over $120 billion worth of energy products in 2011, which constituted over 25 percent of the $462 billion worth of goods/services exported from Canada that year.

The sizeable contribution made by the oil and gas sector to Canada’s export revenue helped shore up the value of the Canadian dollar, which enhanced Canadians’ purchasing power internationally and helped raise the average household wealth of Canadians above that of Americans for the first time in history.

Canada’s natural resource wealth, in particular in energy resources, has also given it the best economic performance among the G8 countries over the last several years, and allowed it to better weather the economic decline following the bursting of the global credit bubble in 2008.

The exceptionalism of Canada among the developed world faces a threat from an unexpected source though: increasing shale oil production in the US.

As noted in the Edmonton Journal, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report projects a substantial increase in global oil supplies as new oil extraction methods like hydraulic fracturing make previously inaccessible shale oil reserves accessible for the first time:

Thanks to such innovations as horizontal drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing), the U.S. is currently producing more oil than it has in 20 years. U.S. output now exceeds seven million barrels a day, and that has enabled the world’s biggest oil consuming nation to cut its imports to the lowest level in 16 years.

Since Canada’s crude oil exports are a critical driver of well-paid jobs, royalties, taxes — and ultimately, federal equalization transfers — that’s something that should alarm all Canadians.

Indeed, if current trends continue, the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017, the International Energy Agency has predicted.

This can threaten Canada’s energy sector due to both global and regional effects. Globally, an increase in oil production would reduce oil prices, and with it, Canada’s oil and gas revenue. Regionally, given ninety percent of Canada’s energy exports are sent to the US, an increase in American oil production would significantly reduce the premium Canadian oil producers receive thanks to the proximity of their major buyers.

The regional effects could be alleviated with the construction of more pipelines capable of transporting the oil produced in the Athabasca oil sands in Northern Alberta to the Pacific Ocean, from where it can be shipped to Asian economies, but projects being proposed at the moment, like the Enbridge pipeline, face political challenges due to ideological and cultural opposition to the oil industry among a sizeable section of the Canadian public.

Economic repercussions

If the global petroleum market progresses as the PwC report predicts, the prosperity of Canada’s Western provinces, which depends to a large part on energy production, would diminish, and federal revenues from oil and gas royalties would decline.

The rapid immigration of skilled trades people to Canada to work in the oil and gas sector would slow, and other developed countries, especially large oil importers like European countries and Japan, would become more attractive destinations for immigrants and international investors.

The net effect for the world would likely be positive, as reduced oil prices increase global economic growth and raise the average of standard of living around the world.

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Edmonton and Calgary to Have Fastest Economic Growth in Canada

Suncor Energy Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Edmonton and Calgary are expected to have the fastest economic growth in Canada according to the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012 (Chuck Szmurlo)

The Albertan metropolises, Calgary and Edmonton, will have the fastest economic growth in Canada this year, followed closely by Regina, Saskatchewan, according to a forecast by the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012, released today.

Alberta is expected to benefit from high levels of energy-industry-related investment for the next four years, which will help fund economic growth of 3.8 percent in Calgary and 4.6 percent in Edmonton in 2012.

Saskatchewan’s cities, also enjoying a resource-sector-led boom thanks to the province’s large oil and gas, potash, uranium, and lumber resources, will see strong growth over the next four years according to the report. The provincial capital, Regina, is expected to lead the province with economic growth of 3.6 percent in 2012.

Perhaps surprisingly given the city’s real estate slowdown, Vancouver is expected to have one of the best performing economies in Canada in the coming years, with economic growth of 3.1 percent in 2012, and average annual economic growth of 3.3 percent forecast for the next four years.

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