WPC: Canada's energy supplies still going strong

Despite a history of more than 140 years in the petroleum industry, Canada is still touting its fossil fuel reserves and energy-friendliness. In Alberta in particular, it is not a sin for energy firms to make a profit or get ahead, says Steve West who recently left his post as the province's energy minister to become provincial treasurer. West was one of several speakers who praised the energy record and prospects of Alberta and Canada at the World Petroleum Congress Monday.


CALGARY�Despite a history of more than 140 years in the petroleum industry, Canada is still touting its fossil fuel reserves and energy-friendliness.

In Alberta in particular, it is not a sin for energy firms to make a profit or get ahead, says Steve West who recently left his post as the province's energy minister to become provincial treasurer. West was one of several speakers who praised the energy record and prospects of Alberta and Canada at the first plenary session of the World Petroleum Congress Monday.

West noted that Alberta, at 1.5 times the size of California and with a population of 3 million, has the lowest taxes and unemployment rate in Canada and a forecast economic growth rate this year of 5.5%. The prolific Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) underlies 95% of Alberta, a province that produces 85% of Canada�s oil and gas.

Alberta� s oilsands, with an estimated 300 billion bbl of oil recoverable by current technology, will play a major role in the province's energy future, said West. The Syncrude Canada Ltd. consortium's oilsands facility in northern Alberta is the largest surface mining operation in the world.

Oilsands production costs have fallen from $29 (Can.)/bbl in 1974 to $12/bbl now, and continuing improvements in technology will reduce costs to about $9/bbl, he said. There is $30 billion (Can.) in planned investment in the oilsands, and they will soon produce 50% of Canada�s oil.

Still going strong
The treasurer said there is still considerable potential remaining in Alberta�s other energy reserves. There are remaining reserves of conventional oil and 200 tcf of natural gas to produce. Canada now exports 13 bcf/year to the US, accounting for about 12% of US demand. And there is potential to export 15 tcf, says West.

There is a 900-year supply of thermal and metallurgical coal in Alberta, and technological advances in emission controls may make this feasible for development, he said. Other assets in Alberta include an estimated 2,600 tcf of coalbed methane.

Alberta's royalty revenues from the energy industry were $4.3 billion (Can.) in 1999, and they're expected to be considerably higher in 2000, with a forecast average oil price of more than $26 (US)/bbl.

Canadian Resources Minister Ralph Goodale noted that Canada has more than 100 years of expertise in the oil and gas industry and has produced more than 21 billion bbl of oil from the WCSB to date. He said Canada is on the leading edge of technological development in the industry, with a highly developed system that includes more than 336,000 miles of pipelines, energy exports worth $13.2 billion (Can.), and annual capital expenditures by the industry of $13.9 billion.

Robert Peterson, chairman, CEO, and president of Imperial Oil Ltd., a Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., said Canada�s energy industry is healthy, considering growth off Eastern Canada and a strong outlook for oilsands and heavy oil development in Alberta. Imperial Oil�s heavy oil development at Cold Lake in eastern Alberta is now producing about 130,000 b/d, and further expansions are planned.

Peterson noted Canada produced North America�s first oil, with a well at Oil Springs, Ont., that produced 37 b/d beginning in 1857, several years ahead of the first well drilled in Ohio. Canada was also a leader in early refining technology, he said.

Nearly 150 years later, Canada�s industry is now world-class and world-competitive, said Peterson. Canada is a leader in new technology, particularly in the areas of oilsands and heavy oil development.

The future for Canadian energy is one of opportunity, he said, and it is directly linked to the efficient use of energy for social and economic development and improved standards of living around the globe.

Over the past 15 years, world petroleum reserves have increased 50% and the cost of providing the energy has been cut by 50%. In Canada and globally, he said, the role of technology will be in getting more petroleum from mature areas and finding new reserves in more remote and difficult areas of operation.

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