The heavy-oil niche

Extra-heavy oil is forming subtle intrigue out of the commercial and political practicalities that shape its destiny. The commercial practicalities are that refiners able to run heavy crude usually want to buy low-quality feedstock as intensely as producers of the stuff want to sell it. Owners of cokers and hydrocrackers tend to want to use them. The political practicalities are more complex. The country with the world's greatest concentration of conversion capacity on its southern coast has been unenthusiastic about growing supply of heavy oil from the north. US President Barack Obama stunned Canadian industry and government leaders last year when he delayed approval of the Keystone XL p...

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