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Keystone XL’s Window Of Profitability Closing

9:16 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

In a recent edition of the Oil and Gas Investments Bulletin newsletter, I saw the following statement:

Canadian heavy oil actually traded under $50/barrel this week—less than half the price of Brent-priced international crude. It is by far the cheapest crude on the planet right now.

(The industry calls these discounts “differentials”—they would say “the WCS Select differential blew out to $37.50, even $38 today.” This translates into “The Canadian heavy oil benchmark price traded $38 below WTI today.”)

These low prices are from the big increases in oilsands production filling up the pipelines and the refineries in North America—despite the fact that more refineries are switching over their processes to handle more heavy crude.

In fact, fast growing oilsands production is also causing a discount for other Canadian oil producers as well.

Canadian heavy crude under $50 a barrel? The stuff costs around that much just to get it out of the ground. That’s not a profitable state of affairs for tar sands exploiters. In fact, an article from February 2012 in the Toronto Globe and Mail has this passage (bolding mine):
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Don’t Fall for the TransCanada Bluff

9:46 am in Energy by Phoenix Woman

I see this morning that folks are all atwitter over a Bloomberg article about how TransCanada may “bypass” US approval to get the Keystone XL built.

Um, no.

It’s all a big bluff, part of the “it’s inevitable so get out of the way you silly hippies” lie they’re pushing.

Read this graf from the Bloomberg story very closely:

TransCanada’s $7 billion Keystone XL proposal to bring crude from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf was rejected yesterday by the Obama administration. The project required U.S. approval because it crossed the border with Canada. The company may seek that approval after it builds the segment from Montana to the Gulf, Pourbaix said.

They still need to cross the border, and to do that, they still need U.S. approval.

Why do they need to cross the border?

1) The First Nations tribes in Canada won’t let them cut through thousands of miles of boreal forest and wilderness to get to the British Columbian coast.

2) Even if the First Nations tribes acquiesced, there are no BC ports capable of handling supertankers (this despite intense efforts to build them) — and the tar sands are so expensive to extract and to move (they have to be thawed and them mixed with liquid natural gas just to get them to flow in the pipelines) that the only way they can turn a profit at current gas prices is if they’re sent to China in supertankers — hence the desire to pipe the crud to Houston, which obviously has both refineries and supertanker facilities.

As for “well we’ll just ship the Bakken oil to China, nyahh” (and bear in mind that the Bakken — in North Dakota — and the Canadian tar sands are two different things): They’re trying to strike while the iron (and China’s economy) is hot. The US market is no longer a burgeoning gas market. US gasoline consumption peaked in 2007 and dropped dramatically in 2008; gas usage has crept up somewhat since 2009, but as of this time last year it was still at 2004 levels, as the impact of hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles made itself felt in the US market. Furthermore, the Bakken oil isn’t going to last very long. That’s why the oil towns in North Dakota aren’t shelling out for new housing and infrastructure — they don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of empty buildings and deserted neighborhoods five years from now. (They’ve already been there and done that.)

In short: Exercise reading comprehension because they are trying to pull a fast one on you, the reader.