Thursday, September 15, 2005

WSJ on Operation Alberta Freedom.

It's FREE (the article), and they include a handy map in case you want to load your pickup and your shotgun(s). Notice the city in the middle called Fort McMurray? Obviously the Canadians knew it was going to come to this sooner or later.

WSJ: A Black Gold Rush in Alberta.


By briefly blasting oil prices above $70 a barrel, Hurricane Katrina may have blown away any lingering doubts among oil producers about the long-term profitability of multibillion-dollar projects in the vast oil sands of this western Canadian province.

The supply disruptions caused by the hurricane also may stoke further U.S. interest in the oil sands as a stable, long-term supply source.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Canada's oil sands contain 174 billion barrels of recoverable reserves -- the world's second-largest oil resource behind Saudi Arabia. But soaring construction costs and high prices for natural gas, which is used in producing petroleum from the sticky sands, are driving up the break-even point for new developments under way or planned for the northern Alberta region.

Even so, the wave of development engulfing the forested oil-sands region has gathered so much momentum that some say it is unstoppable. "Really, there is no price scenario that could derail the oil sands, be it oil prices or natural-gas prices," says Greg Stringham, vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Recent lofty natural-gas prices aren't sustainable long term, he argues.

Some producers are testing new oil-sands extraction technology that would burn bitumen instead of natural gas to generate steam.

I don't quite agree with Mr. Stringham's optimism on natural gas prices, but I believe alternatives will be developed. Among the producers that are looking at burning bitumen instead of natural gas are Nexen and Opti Canada, which have been moving nicely of late.