News Column

Lower oil prices threaten oilsands investment

August 18, 2014



Some of the world's costliest energy projects are in Alberta's oilsands and some could be cancelled without higher oil prices, according to a new report by a financial think-tank that focuses on climate risk.

The study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative highlighted 20 of the biggest projects around the world that need a minimum oil price of US$95 a barrel to be economically viable.

Most on the list require prices well north of $110 U.S. a barrel and a few in the oilsands even need prices higher than $150 U.S., said the report.

Crude for September deliver was trading at around $97 U.S. a barrel in New York on Friday.

The report's authors question whether those funds should be invested in risky projects.

High on the list were Houston-based ConocoPhillips' oilsands operations, which include joint ventures with Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) at Foster Creek and Christina Lake and with Total E&P Canada at Surmont.

A spokeswoman for Cenovus, which operates Foster Creek and Christina Lake, questioned how CTI came up with its figures, as its steam-driven projects have supply costs between just $35 U.S. and $65 U.S. a barrel.

CTI also flagged Shell's Carmon Creek project and ExxonMobil's Aspen and Kearl projects.

Other pricey projects highlighted in the report were in deepwater or ultra deepwater off West Africa and Brazil, as well as in the Arctic.

In May, Total and partner Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU) decided to indefinitely defer their $11-billionJoslyn North mine in Alberta because the economics just weren't good enough.

And in June, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicted oilsands production would grow at a slower pace than previously expected because of rising costs and capital constraints.

It sees output hitting 4.8 million barrels a day by 2030, about two and a half times higher than last year's output of 1.9 million barrels.

But the figure is 7.7% lower than the 5.2 million barrels of daily oilsands output CAPP predicted for the same time frame last year.


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Source: Baystreet Economic Commentary (Canada)


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