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With Oil Pipelines Delayed, Alberta Leases 4,400 Railway Cars to Move Supply

The Alberta government announced a C$3.7 billion ($2.8 billion) commitment Tuesday to lease 4,400 railway tank cars as a three-year substitute for delayed oil pipeline projects.

Premier Rachel Notley described the deal as action to ensure “top dollar” is earned for the province from Canada’s top industrial natural gas user, northern Alberta thermal oilsands production.

Deliveries are planned to begin in July at 20,000 b/d and climb to 120,000 b/d by 2020 under lease contracts with both of the country’s Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway.

About 10% of the provincial car fleet would display Alberta insignia, added Notley’s New Democratic Party (NDP) government, which is scheduled to seek re-election this spring.

The NDP also released a forecast that the new oil trains would earn an overall profit for the province by generating C$5.9 billion ($4.4 billion) in total industry, royalty and tax revenues over the three-year tank car lease period.

The strategy, which also includes government-enforced production cuts, currently by 250,000 b/d down to a 3.63 million b/d quota, aims to support prices by curing a 2018 plague of deep discounts because output has exceeded pipeline capacity.

All three oil pipeline projects supported by Alberta -- the Trans Mountain expansion to the Pacific coast, TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL and Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement -- continue to face aggressive opposition in regulatory arenas and the courts.

The Alberta government shows signs of succeeding in reducing price and revenue losses because of supply gluts with its market intervention strategy.

As of this week the trademark Alberta heavy crude product, Western Canada Select (WCS), was trading at US$42.48/bbl, which is $13.11/bbl or 23% less than the North American light oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate price of $55.69/bbl. A year ago, the discount was nearly twice as deep: 43%, with WCS at US$34.68/bbl or $26.66/bbl less than WTI’s $61.34/bbl.

 

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