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OPEC Chief Praises Canada’s Unconventional Oil, Gas Revolution

Unconventional drilling drew unexpected praise Tuesday from a surprise source -- the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

“I’m glad it came,” OPEC President Suhail Al Mazrouei told an annual Calgary energy conference held by TD Securities. “If it didn’t, we would have been in a catastrophic situation today.”

Tightening markets wove the welcome mat for unconventional oil, natural gas and liquid byproducts during the past four years, said Al Mazrouei, who is also minister of Energy and Industry in the United Arab Emirates.

As development languished everywhere except in onshore regions of the United States and Canada, global production naturally declined at an annual rate of 5 million b/d, while consumption growth averaged 1.5 million b/d, the OPEC chief estimated.

The result has been a US$1-2 trillion loss of investment to sustain and raise supply at the same time as world oil demand climbs towards a new high, triggering a price rebound.

Total consumption is poised to hit 100 million b/d in 2019, said Al Mazrouei and ARC Financial Corp. chief economist Peter Tertzakian.

Annual vehicle sales are also headed up to a new benchmark of 100 million, with all but a modest fraction still running on oil, Tertzakian added.

Al Mazrouei and Tertzakian both drive electric vehicles and said it was an exciting time for those who can afford the turn away from gasoline-fueled cars, but described the fashionable vision of complete transportation transformation as exaggerated.

The world motor vehicle population exceeds one billion and is poised to grow by 30% over the next two decades, they said. Both believe oil demand is likely to hold at least steady, and think it could grow even if electric car promoters’ visions of going from almost zero to 30% of the vehicle market come true.

The 2014-2017 low on the oil and gas price cycle was not the only damper on investment that ARC and its peers ran into, Tertzakian said.

Fossil fuel critics, climate change evangelists and environmental crusaders have succeeded in spreading a money market perception that a historic transition to de-carbonized and electrified energy will arrive by the mid-2020s, he said.

The practical result, limiting commitments despite the oil price rebound into the range of US$70/bbl plus, is concern that reserves developed now could be worthless within 10 years, he said.

Energy market developments are reviving investment manager realism and willingness to support oil and gas firms, said Calgary executives such as Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Chairman Steve Laut and Suncor Energy Inc. Vice President Mark Little.

The Canadian results include continuing expansion by the nation’s biggest, fastest-growing user of natural gas, northern Alberta thermal oilsands plants. Little said Suncor is alone working on 10 production sites, each one capable of 40,000 b/d.

Laut said a breakthrough is in sight on the Canadian industry trouble spot, lack of access to markets because of environmental, political and aboriginal resistance against pipelines. “We’ve almost turned the corner,” said the CNRL chairman.

He cited the May government takeover of the 590,000 b/d Trans Mountain expansion project, June approval of Enbridge Inc.’s 370,000 b/d export Line 3 upgrade, and progress on TransCanada Corp.’s 830,000 b/d Keystone XL.

 

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