CALGARY — Royal Dutch Shell's name is being removed from a tiny 65-year-old employee credit union as its visibility in the Alberta oil and gas industry continues to shrink in the wake of the sale of most of its oilsands assets last year.
The rebranding of the Shell Employees' Credit Union as Spark the Energy Credit Union (a name chosen in part because the initials stay the same) was celebrated Thursday at its only branch on the main floor of Shell Canada's downtown Calgary headquarters.
It follows a vote in June in which individual members who own the credit union voted 96 per cent in favour of moving to a brand that would allow growth by being more inclusive of a broader Alberta energy worker market.
The name change is directly linked to the oilsands sale because that event resulted in thousands of Shell employee members switching to work for the buyer, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., said credit union president and chairman Adam Battistessa, who is also the government relations manager for Shell in Calgary.
“It was a wakeup call. When Shell divested its AOSP oilsands assets to CNRL, a lot of our members became CNRL employees,” he said, adding Shell has backed the growth initiative and name change.
“I think Spark is really symbolic, you know, to enable energy, you need a spark to get it going.”
He said the credit union has about 6,000 members but only about 1,000 work for Shell. The rest include retirees, family members, friends and former Shell workers.
In the $12.7-billion deal with Canadian Natural and Marathon Oil in 2017, Shell sold all but 10 per cent of its interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project mine in northern Alberta but retained ownership of its Edmonton-area Scotford refinery (which has a small on-site credit union office) and chemicals plants.
The complex agreement resulted in 3,100 employees from Shell and Marathon Oil going to Canadian Natural.
Earlier this month, Shell announced with its partners final approval to build the $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export terminal at Kitimat, B.C., reflecting the Anglo-Dutch parent company's strategic shift toward natural gas over oilsands.
Spark has considered and will continue to consider amalgamating with a larger credit union as many others have in the recent past, Battistessa said.
There are about 525 credit union and caisses populaires across Canada, with combined assets of $406 billion, serving 10.3 million members, according to the Canadian Credit Union Association.
The number of credit unions has declined by about 38 per cent in the past 10 years, it said.
© 2018 The Canadian Press