Canada Looks To China, India For Energy Customers

Canada’s first oil-sands unit train to run in November

Cutler,Guest blogger / October 4, 2013 Pipelines carrying steam to wellheads and heavy oil back to the processing plant line the roads and boreal forest at a project 74 miles south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, in Canada. Todd Korol/Reuters/File Enlarge Asian countries continue to line up for Canadian energy to which the United States is unable to commit. This week Japan ‘s prime minister Shinzo Abe met with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper to discuss the potential for shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. Although no firm agreement was announced, Japanese newspapers speculated that the first Canadian exports might reach Japan as early as 2018 and no later than 2020. OilPrice.com offers extensive coverage of all energy sectors from crude oil and natural gas to solar energy and environmental issues. To see more opinion pieces and news analysis that cover energy technology, finance and trading, geopolitics, and sector news, please visit Oilprice.com . Recent posts The Christian Science Monitor Weekly Digital Edition This reflects, among other things, the greater difficulty that Canada has had in developing LNG export terminals. Low prices for gas from western Canada is another problem, and although there is reason to believe in a secular rise towards higher prices, U.S. producers are less affected by the current levels. On the other hand, as prices rise, there are fears in Canada of a typical bust-to-boom scenario; and for this, there is fear that Canada’s gas producers are and will continue to be ill-prepared, not even able to take advantage of the anticipated boom. (Related article: Despite Shale, OPEC Still Matters ) RECOMMENDED: US energy in five maps (infographics) Nevertheless, India is also getting in line for Canadian oil as well as gas. India’s High Commissioner Nirmal Verma was also in Ottawa this week to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement allowing uranium from Canada to be sold to India as reactor fuel. India seeks to triple in electricity production in the next decade, in part by building as many as a dozen new reactors. Agreement was actually reached three years ago, but the additional time is required in order to establish a process for independent verification that the fuel is used for peaceful purposes. In 1974, India used a reactor supplied by Canada to create the fuel for a nuclear bomb test. India is even willing to consider investment in the Energy East Pipeline, even as TransCanada has had to delay its filing of an application to the National Energy Board from this year until next year. Environmental concerns that need to be addressed during the regulatory process are partly responsible for the delay, but also it is now foreseen that the original estimate of 850,000 barrels per day (bpd) is low and should be increased to 1.1 million bpd. (Related article: Canada to Drill for Offshore North Atlantic Oil ) Energy talks between the two countries were elevated to the ministerial level last year when our visit India, and India’s energy minister will be visiting Ottawa later this month to continue the discussions. The oil-sands are doing slightly better, as the first crude-by-rail unit train terminal is set to start transporting 50,000 bpd to the U.S.

The terminal in Bruderheim, Alberta, which will be expanded to 100,000 bpd by the second half of next year as a second supply pipeline is connected, initially will load only “dilbit” oil, or heavy bitumen crude from Canada’s oil sands region mixed with 30 percent light condensate, Gary Kubera, chief executive of privately owned Canexus, said in an interview. The facility is the first of a half dozen or so Canadian projects that have emerged over the past year to help carry more of the booming production from the Alberta oil sands by rail as producers seek alternatives to congested export pipelines. Shipping by rail is more costly, but also more flexible. At present, the oil sands are only served by manifest trains hauling smaller loads, a less cost-effective mode of transport, but around 550,000 bpd of unit-train crude-by-rail projects – terminals that can load up to 120 rail cars a day – are due to start up in Western Canada by the end of 2014. The Canexus terminal, which has been shipping 25,000 to 30,000 bpd of crude from Bruderheim on manifest trains since 2012, has already secured customer commitments for about 35 percent of its capacity. The company expects 70 to 80 percent of capacity to be under contract by the end of the year. “The first unit train is set to run by the end of November,” Kubera said. “We expect unit trains will be going to the East, West, Gulf coasts. There is a lot of investment going into refineries to allow them to move crude by rail.” He declined to give exact details of where Bruderheim shipments will go in the United States, saying it would be the decision of the shippers and their customers. Extra rail capacity could help limit discounts on bottle-necked oil sands crude, which widened to as much as $40 per barrel below the West Texas Intermediate benchmark earlier this year, cleaving a hefty chunk out of producers’ profits. Canadian producer MEG Energy says the terminal allows MEG to ship all of its 30,000 to 35,000 bpd of production by rail to its main market in the U.S.