The continuing struggle over energy in North America

If you want to make a blurry TV picture less blurry, you just have to adjust the contrast. But if you try messing with the colours, then you’ll forget what you were looking at in the first place.

The Canadian and American views on their respective energy pictures are excellent examples of contrasts in, not only style and content, but also commitment.

Metaphorically speaking in all three cases, the Canadian style is to aim, aim, aim, continue aiming – then finally shoot. If we miss, then we just start aiming all over again. The American business philosophy is to shoot and keep shooting and let’s see if we hit the target later. The former is passive, the latter aggressive. Both have their plusses, both have their minuses and minuses.

The first Canadian refinery in almost 30 years, located near Edmonton, is scheduled to come on stream later this year.

Rated to process 78,000 bpd of bitumen when running at capacity, but producing only diesel to be marketed into an already saturated distillate market, the updated cost now sits at a staggering $9.3 billion or $119,200/bbl. The vast majority of the costs are backstopped by the Alberta constituents.

This refinery was proposed and approved by the previous Conservative provincial government based on the view, as supported by the populace of Alberta, that they needed to refine their own crude into transport fuels for their own use rather than send it to the U.S. for refining into products used south of the border. I cannot argue with the passion and we all can’t argue with geography. The market for refined products is where the market is, and that’s U.S. Midwest, some distance removed from Edmonton. The aim was good, but the target is out of range.

The export market would be logical but requires the approval and construction of the twinning of the Kinder Morgan Edmonton to Burnaby pipeline, which although approved federally, will now be blocked by a newly glued together B.C. administration. The only way to solve this is if all concerned parties are on the same team, playing the same game, under the same rules, with the same goals.

Aim, aim, and hit the target.

In the U.S. things move a bit quicker. President Trump, after proclaiming U.S. Energy Dominance this week, had a chat with the leader of the Government of India, the world’s third largest buyer of crude, and somehow convinced them that they should consider the U.S. and Canada as sources of heavy sour crude now that OPEC is cutting back.

Presto! A tender will be released for two million bbls to be delivered between September 25 and October 4 this year.

In addition to three grades of heavy sour from the Gulf, India also wants Western Canadian Select (WCS) prices from Irving Oil. How two million barrels of WCS will get to Irving in New Brunswick from Edmonton is foggy to me, but if we had an Edmonton to anywhere pipeline then we would have a clear picture.

Too bad we aren’t all watching the same channel – or even the same TV show.

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Roger McKnight is the Chief Petroleum Analyst with En-Pro International Inc.
Roger has over 25 years experience in the oil industry, and has held senior marketing management positions responsible for national and international accounts. He is the originator of the card lock concept of marketing on-road diesel that is now the predominant purchase method of diesel in Canada. Roger's knowledge of the oil industry in North America, and pricing structures has resulted in his expertise being sought as a commentator by local, national, and international media. Roger is a regular guest on radio and television programs, and he is quoted regularly in newspapers and magazines across Canada.

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