Alberta’s oil producers feel a resurgence-but analysts do not predict a repeat of the last boom

Ten years ago, when Alberta’s oil industry was booming, thousands of workers took a path to Fort McMurray, Alta, by injecting cash into the company’s ambitious growth plan .

We know the end of the matter-after a painful six-year downturn, there was a sharp drop in oil prices Turn negative.

But as crude oil prices in North America climbed, people began to talk about “prosperity“In the near future, residents of northeastern Alberta will not be under the same pressure. However, they hope that their communities will have a better life.

Kevin Weidlich, chief executive officer of the Fort Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism Bureau at McMurray Wood, said: “We have not had a surge of new immigrants into the area.”

“The people here still have a lot of work to do.”

After a series of difficult years, commodity prices have strengthened, and vaccinations have continued to increase and continue Pipeline construction?? Aroused the hope of a big rebound in Canadian oil wells. Alberta oil production in March Reached a milestone height.

In addition, some of the country’s largest oil companies reported Big change Profit for the first quarter including Suncor Energy and Natural Resources Canada.

High oil prices (well above US$60 per barrel) are good news for oil companies, which are struggling to rebuild their balance sheets after borrowing heavily in the oil and gas industry. Survive in a long downturn. As oil royalties increase, they can also help increase provincial government accounts.

For decades, versions of these bumper stickers that pray for another oil boom have been seen on cars in Alberta. (Mike Morrison/Twitter)

Mike Holden, chief economist of the Alberta Business Council, said that if the average price of North American benchmark oil prices this year exceeds US$60 per barrel, it may increase Alberta’s bottom line by approximately US$3 billion. , Which is 30% higher than the government plan in February When to budget The price of oil is US$46 per barrel.

But even if forecasts improve, observers do not want oil prices to return to that level of capital expenditures, nor do they expect the hiring boom seen before crude oil prices began to decline in its long and heavy 2014.

After a particularly sinister period, some companies seem to be using it safely. There are still many opinions on how high oil prices will climb to highs and how long they will stay there.

Holden said: “High oil prices are good for oil wells.” “This is actually a question. How long will it last? Is this a short-term phenomenon or will it last until 2022.”

However, the company is also responding to the landscape that has undergone great changes in the past decade, from shareholder expectations to carbon policies to the outlook for fossil fuel demand.pace of Energy transition Overhang A lot of discussion.

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Not long ago, one can expect oil companies to reinvest a significant portion of their available cash for future growth and new capital projects. This is also what shareholders expect.

Now shareholders pay more attention to profitability rather than growth to ensure that they receive a return on their investment in oil and gas companies, for example in the form of dividends.

Jackie Forrest, executive director of the ARC Energy Research Institute, said: “Even in the case of high oil prices, we will not see the same level of reinvestment in new capital projects, because the whole way of thinking has already happened in terms of providing actual returns. Change.” An energy research company in Calgary.

“So not all money will grow like it used to.”

Jackie Forrest, executive director of the ARC Energy Institute, saw it here in 2019. He said that despite the good performance of the oil industry, he is cautious about its funding. (Colin Underwood/CBC)

A recent ARC forecast estimates that the total income of Canadian industry will climb to 137 billion Canadian dollars by 2021, the highest level since 2014. After-tax cash flow may reach 70 billion Canadian dollars.

ARC estimates that only a small part of this $70 billion will be used for new capital projects. It expects that approximately $7 billion will be reinvested in the oil sands sector, while nearly $17 billion will be invested in conventional oil and natural gas.

“Although the industry is in very good condition, they are very cautious of their own funds and have not used them for new projects or [capital expenditure] And things that will create a lot of jobs in the province in this way,” Forrest said.

She said that despite this, the oilfield still spends a lot of money on operating costs and maintenance every year (about 40 billion US dollars per year), “this is really significant.”

In an interview with CBC News last week, Suncor CEO Mark Little emphasized that the pragmatic way to deal with rising oil prices is despite the fact that the company Exceed analyst expectations Announced a net income of US$821 million in the first three months of 2021, compared with a net loss of US$3.5 billion in the same period last year.

He said: “The price of crude oil may still fluctuate by 5% on a certain day, so we have to proceed with caution here to avoid falling behind.”

Suncor also said that it will continue its layoff plan. It said in October that it would reduce the total number of employees by 10% to 15% within 18 months, or a maximum of 1,930 jobs.

Cenovus Energy, which recently merged with Husky Energy, said in a conference call with analysts on Friday that most of its profits will continue to be used on its balance sheet as it aims to reduce its net debt.

Morgan Kwan, senior vice president of strategy and analysis at Enverus, an energy data analysis company, said: “Canada’s oil and gas industry is looking for new things.”

She believes that this will lead to an “increase” in capital expenditures, but not as it did a few years ago.

Kwan said: “The other thing to remember is that the efficiency of the industry has been greatly improved, so we don’t need so many workers or the same amount of activities to produce the same barrels.”

Recent labor market forecasts He predicted that despite a slight increase in capital expenditures, the oil and gas labor force will still shrink this year, followed by “moderate” growth in 2022 and 2023.

Raymond James analyst Jeremy McCrea predicts that if commodity prices remain at these levels, capital expenditures will increase. The increase in oilfield activity will help service companies and drilling companies that still feel under-supply of oil. The economic blow of the pandemic.

However, because oil companies have also weighed global initiatives aimed at increasing renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, McCrea does not expect the boom before 2014 to repeat itself.

“You have seen a lot of such professional companies and small companies really start to adopt this method, saying:’You know, maybe we don’t need to start preparing inventory with 20 years of value; let’s take a look at what we have now You can try and get incredible efficiency in this way and achieve profitability,” he said. “So you no longer have a bigger growth plan. “

In this file photo, ground workers on oil rigs are working on a project south of Fort McMurray. Recent labor market forecasts predict that despite a slight increase in capital expenditures, the oil and gas labor force will contract this year, followed by “moderate” growth in 2022 and 2023. (Reuters)

Indeed, oil and gas companies around the world are looking to the future, trying to find the best development path while the government is stepping up its efforts to combat climate change.even Petroleum Super Professional Talking about the energy transition.

This is a huge change from the boom period of the 2000s, when oil sands development focused on the construction of new large-scale projects. For many Albertans, even if oil prices rise, those days seem to be part of a distant era.

Holden of the Alberta Business Council said: “This is the gratifying result of our troubles, and Alberta has been in desperate need of good news.”

But repeat the heyday of the last oil boom and those large-scale investments?

Holden said: “I don’t think this exists.”

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