The Hottest Oil Play in Canada
Time for Plan 'B'
Mistakes happen all the time, and I happened to make one the last time I hung my coat in Northern Alberta.
A while back, one of my cubicle-mates and I took an impromptu trip to Fort McMurray — the heart of Canada's oil sands. By the time we found ourselves heading south down Highway 63 on the return trip, however, our fate took a miserable turn.
Let me just take this moment to add that if you ever get the brilliant notion to ignore the advice of your car's GPS, dismiss the thought immediately.
At the behest of my passenger, we turned off the main highway and began meandering our way down back-roads that were best left to the locals. The decision tacked several hours onto our return journey,
Despite the long, grueling detour down that dirt road, however, one thing was absolutely clear as the lights of Edmonton came into view: there was absolutely no question how critical Western Canada was to the country's oil production.
It's also the reason why Canada will turn out to be a powerhouse energy exporter in the decades ahead.
North America's Real Energy Powerhouse
Last year, an average of 3.3 million barrels of oil was produced in Western Canada every day. Compared to the kind of growth rates we've seen in U.S. plays like the Bakken, the 6.5% increase in Western Canada didn't exactly break any records.
Still, there's one major difference between these North American energy producers...
Unlike the United States, Canada was able to export more than 3.4 million barrels per day last January — accounting for 36% of the crude oil and petroleum products that were imported into the U.S. that month.
But let me ask: Is it really that surprising to learn that our neighbor to the north is our largest supplier? Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before the status quo changes.
Below, you'll see that although production has grown steadily since last summer, exports essentially flat-lined.
A report published in March by Canada's National Energy Board gives the reason, but I have a feeling you may already know what's going on. In a nutshell, the largest impediment to Canadian oil exports is the fact that the country only has one customer: us.
Of course, trying to compete against the oil boom taking place on U.S. soil also means Canadian producers have to cut into their profits, too. Both Edmonton Par and Western Canadian Select are sold at a considerable discount to Western Texas Intermediate, sometimes up to $20 or even $30 less per barrel.
That doesn't sit well with them — nor should it.
Keystone Coppers Force Plan 'B' into Action
How many years has TransCanada been waiting for the U.S. Dept. of State to green-light its Keystone XL pipeline?
Perhaps a better question is how much longer will it be delayed. If I had to guess, I wouldn't be shocked to see the red tape still enveloping this project until the midterms in October, or even until after the 2016 Presidential election.
Don't expect them to hold their breath in Western Canada, because the damage is being done now. A 2013 report from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce states that Canada is losing approximately $50 million every day — roughly $18.2 billion each year — by having a one-name client list.
But although approval for the Keystone XL pipeline is stuck in D.C. traffic, we're quickly realizing the U.S. is far from Canada's only option.
It turns out TransCanada has a backup plan called Energy East. It's a 2,858-mile pipeline that would connect Western Canada's oil production to New Brunswick.
The $10.8 billion plan involves converting an existing natural gas pipeline into an oil pipeline, then constructing new pipelines in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Eastern Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, as well as facilities, pump stations, and tank terminals along the way.
We're talking about 1.1 million barrels of Canadian crude traveling eastward, giving the country's major oil-producing region a chance to tap markets other than the United States. From New Brunswick, oil could readily be shipped across the Atlantic.
In other words, Canada's access to the global oil markets would cut the puppet strings Washington has controlled up until now.
More importantly, this won't mark the only time Canadian energy exports will arrive on foreign shores ahead of the United States. Remember, there are seven LNG export projects that have received approval, with the first cargoes expected to leave Canadian ports this year!
Until next time,
A true insider in the energy markets, Keith is one of few financial reporters to have visited the Alberta oil sands. His research has helped thousands of investors capitalize from the rapidly changing face of energy. Keith connects with hundreds of thousands of readers as the Managing Editor of Energy & Capital as well as Investment Director of Angel Publishing's Energy Investor. For years, Keith has been providing in-depth coverage of the Bakken, the Haynesville Shale, and the Marcellus natural gas formations — all ahead of the mainstream media. For more on Keith, go to his editor's page.
Energy Demand will Increase 58% Over the Next 25 Years
After getting your report, you’ll begin receiving the Energy and Capital e-Letter, delivered to your inbox daily.