Alberta appoints envoys to work with energy industry on oil differentials
Alberta will pursue building new refineries as the oil-rich Canadian province looks to weather a crude price crunch, while a forced production cut also remains an option, Premier Rachel Notley said.
Notley said she’ll announce a plan to expand “made in Alberta” crude upgrading and refining in the coming days and has appointed three envoys to work with the industry and federal government to seek solutions for the dramatic discount earned for domestic oil. Asked if the province is considering mandating a production curtailment to help boost prices, she said no option has been discarded.
“At this point, all I will say is that there are a number of options in the suite of options and there is no option that has been taken off the table at this point,” Notley said at a news conference in Edmonton. Alberta is being treated as a “branch plant for the U.S.,” she said.
Frustration over the growing discount within the province appears to be growing.
"I've never seen the level of frustration with Ottawa than what I'm witnessing here in Calgary, and in Edmonton and Alberta," Martin Pelletier, portfolio manager at TriVest Wealth Counsel told BNN Bloomberg in an interview on Monday. "There has been complete silence from our leadership ... we have all kinds of serious concerns here that haven't been addressed in Ottawa."
Canadian crude is trading near record lows amid pipeline bottlenecks, rising inventories and a decline in global oil prices. The Western Canada Select benchmark fell to under US$14 a barrel last week, the lowest in Bloomberg data stretching back a decade. The depressed prices has prompted some oil companies including Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to cut production and some to suggest that Alberta’s government should require companies to cut output.
Who needs to play the biggest role in addressing the discount on Canadian oil prices?
The discount that Canadian producers receive for their heavy crude relative to the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, of about US$40 a barrel, is costing the Canadian economy $80 million a day, she said.
The envoys she appointed are Robert Skinner, a policy professor at the University of Calgary; Coleen Volk, the province’s deputy minister of energy; and Brian Topp, Notley’s former chief of staff.
Cenovus welcomed the premier’s announcement but said industry-wide cuts are needed, according to an emailed statement.
“While more pipelines and rail capacity are the long-term solution, we continue to believe that the only effective way to address wide differentials in the short term is through temporary industry-wide production cuts, which can only be mandated by government,” the company said.
Cuts totaling 200,000 to 300,000 barrels a day is a “viable idea” and would help all the companies, including the integrated oil producers who export more than they process in their own refineries, Tim Pickering, founder of Auspice Capital Advisors Ltd., said in a phone interview.
“It’s the only immediate, short-term solution,” he said.
- with files from BNN Bloomberg