Say what!? 8x?!!
A sweet endorsement of Operation Alberta Freedom, er, Canadian oil sands stocks via 60 Minutes on CBS tonight. There's a mention of possibly (emphasize 'possibly'), 8x the reserves of Saudi Arabia. Wait, is that the real reserves of Saudi Arabia, or the "we're not so sure about those reserves" reserves?
This report is positively gushing. Somewhere, Dan Rather is arranging for two guys to rough up Bob Simons in an elevator, I'm sure of it.
How's this for a quote:
It may look like topsoil but all it grows is money.
Pickens is one of those investors. He runs a hedge fund in Dallas and is now a true believer.
"We’re managing $5 billion here. And, about 10 percent of it is in the oil sands. So, it’s the largest single investment we have," Pickens says.
And if oil sands are the answer for investors, does Pickens think the oil sands are the answer for the United States?
"Oh, I think so," he says.
Anyway, an article and video at CBS' site. More info and stock ideas in a prior post, but I'd be wary of buying on Monday.
CBS: The Oil Sands of Alberta.
Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, vehicles that look like prehistoric beasts move across an arctic wasteland, extracting the oil sands. There is so much to scoop, so much money to be made.
There are 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves here. That’s second to Saudi Arabia’s 260 billion but it’s only what companies can get with today’s technology. The estimate of how many more barrels of oil are buried deeper underground is staggering.
"We know there’s much, much more there. The total estimates could be two trillion or even higher," says Clive Mather, Shell's Canada chief. "This is a very, very big resource."
Very big? That’s eight times the amount of reserves in Saudi Arabia. The oil sands are buried under forests in Alberta that are the size of Florida. The oil here doesn’t come gushing out of the sand the way it does in the Middle East. The oil is in the sand. It has to be dug up and processed.
Rick George, the Colorado-born CEO of Suncor Energy, took 60 Minutes into his strip mine for a tour. He says the mine will be in operation for about 25 years.
The oil sands look like a very rich, pliable kind of topsoil. Why doesn’t oil come out when squeezed?
"Well, because it’s not warm enough. If you add this to hot water you’ll start the separation process and you’ll see the oil come to the top of the water and you’ll see sand drop to the bottom," George says.
It may look like topsoil but all it grows is money.
It didn’t always. The oil sands have been in the ground for millions of years, but for decades, prospectors lost millions of dollars trying to squeeze the oil out of the sand. It simply cost too much.
T. Boone Pickens, a legendary Texas oil tycoon, was working Alberta’s traditional oil rigs back in the '60s and remembers how he and his colleagues thought mining for oil sands was a joke.
"Here we are sitting there having a drink after work and somebody said this isn’t going to, it isn’t possible. It’ll all have to be subsidized to a level, said, before they’d make money you’d have to have $5 oil," Pickens says laughing. "We never thought it would happen."
But then $40 a barrel happened and the oil sands not only made sense, they made billions for the people digging them.
Asked if the processed oil is as good as that pumped in Saudi Arabia, Mather says, "Absolutely as good as. In fact, it even trades as a, at a premium because it’s high quality crude oil."
A million barrels a day are now coming out of the oil sands and oil production is expected to triple within a decade. It won’t replace Middle Eastern oil but at that point it will be the single largest source of foreign oil for the United States, even bigger than Saudi Arabia, which sends a million and a half barrels a day to America.
Greg Stringham, who works for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says surprisingly, that Washington has only been paying attention for the "last couple of years."
Stringham often lobbies for the oil sands in Washington. He says that in Alberta you don’t have to look for the oil sands — the earth moves.
"When it comes to exploration in the oil sands, you can’t drill a dry hole. It’s there," he says. "We know where it is. They’ve outlined it. You don’t have any risk. But other conventional sectors around the world, there’s a huge exploration risk."
The exploration risks are the least of it. Much of the world’s crude is in the Middle East where the instability is deeper than the oil. When Alberta’s blue-eyed sheiks took to Wall Street last summer in their Stetsons to drum up support for the oil sands, their message seemed to be, "If you can’t trust Alberta, who can you trust?"
"Alberta is a very good place to do business. It’s a very stable environment," says Mather.
Asked what he thinks about the Chinese interest in the oil sands up in Alberta, Pickens says, "At first I thought they were tire kickers. But I think they’re serious buyers."
But unless the Chinese go back to bicycles and Americans trash their SUVs, there will be buyers — for oil anywhere, no matter how it’s found or mined. Right now, Canada has become the land of opportunity for oilmen. They will tell you there is little else on the horizon.
"Bob, if you take a tablet and put on it where is supply gonna come from that we don’t know about today. And you put down all the optimistic points, that tablet will basically be blank," says Pickens.
As blank as the landscape around Fort McMurray, where the world of oil exploration ends.
Does Pickens think the days of cheap oil are gone?
"They’re gone," he says. "From what we knew as cheap oil, when I pumped gasoline in Ray Smith’s Sinclair station on Hinkley Street in Holdenvale, Oklahoma, 11 cents a gallon, that’s gone."
Will we ever again see $1.50 a gallon? "We won’t ever see $1.50 a gallon. No, that’s gone," says Pickens.