Monday, September 28, 2009

Alberta sans Natural Gas

Those who have spent any time in Alberta know that the province might get all the hype for its conventional oil and oil sands assets, but it is really a natural gas driven province. What would happen if Alberta's natural gas was simply 'priced out' of the market? What would happen to the provincial royalties and the provincial budget that has gotten used to the cushy $7 to $8 prices?
This article in the Globe discusses just that:

Combine that with a technological revolution that has allowed firms to profitably extract shale gas at $4 to $5 per thousand cubic feet, compared with $7 or $8 for new Canadian conventional supplies, and Alberta gas may find itself simply priced out of the market.

...“Canadian plays in general have some challenges because of the higher cost structure and greater distance to market,” EnCana chief executive officer Randy Eresman said this month.

Could Encana's forthcoming splitting might have anything to do with this changed game?

In the article there are a few other critical insights:

“There may well be a ceiling on North American gas prices,” Gary Leach said. “We may be range-bound – at the top end, around $6, $6.50 – and a lot of Alberta natural gas needs prices higher than that.”

“Either they bring down the costs and there will be a larger industry, or the costs remain the same and it will be a much smaller industry,” he said.

But wage deflation in the oil and gas sector is simply impossible? After all, don't Albertans have to pay well over $300k just to get a little shoe box in the middle of prairies?
Too bad, those signing up for 35 year mortgages based on the very recent prosperity of the province might wake up to numerous economic surprises during the different stages of their mortgaged lives.

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