Foreign producers not gone from the Alberta oilsands

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

CALGARY — The foreign stake in the Alberta oilsands has been thinned over the past four years but not totally eliminated.

Oilsands output attributable to non-Canadian companies rose from about 320,000 barrels per day in 2010 to 647,000 barrels per day in 2014, then slipped back to about 573,000 barrels per day in 2018, according to a Canadian Press analysis of Alberta production numbers.

The foreign interest percentage of production varied from 22 per cent in 2010 to just under 33 per cent in 2014 and about 20 per cent in 2018.

The decision by Oklahoma-based Devon Energy Corp. to sell its Jackfish thermal oilsands project to Calgary's Canadian Natural Resources earlier this year dropped that percentage to roughly 16 per cent.

The 12 foreign companies left with commercial oilsands production in Alberta now are composed of three from the U.S., three from China and one each from Britain, the Netherlands, France, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

The non-Canadian company with the highest oilsands production in 2018 was Paris-based Total with an average of about 101,000 barrels per day from its interests in the Fort Hills oilsands mine operated by Suncor and the Surmont project operated by Houston-based ConocoPhillips.

A buoyant global oil market and an attractive resource with pipeline room and clear regulatory paths brought foreign players to Canada's oilsands a decade ago, says oilsands analyst Michael Dunn of GMP FirstEnergy.

The reversal of all of those factors is responsible for sending them away.

“In the oilsands, experience and scale account for so much and if it's not a growth area for you, if you're not committed to it, a lot of these entities have decided their efforts and time are better served elsewhere.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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