Energy Ink

The Canadian oil patch defies convention

The oil sands, heavy oil and tight gas are driving growth

June 01, 2011

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Alberta Oil’s annual ranking of Canada’s top oil and natural gas producers is always an enlightening exercise. Plowing through annual and financial reports and management discussion and analysis papers is a useful way to get a clearer picture of where the oil and gas industry is headed and to spot a trend or two.

The industry trend this year seems to be that, along with getting more profitable, the sector is also becoming more unconventional. Canadian oil and gas producers are increasingly turning their attention to tight gas, oil sands and heavy oil plays to earn decent returns, grow their asset bases and keep shareholders happy.

The editorial content of the June issue reflects this. Steve LeVine – who writes an entertaining and insightful oil and gas blog for Foreign Policy magazine – illustrates how ExxonMobil has quietly turned to Alberta’s oil sands to stay on the top of the oil and gas mountain.

Sticking with the business of bitumen, Alberta Oil associate editor Jeff Lewis writes about an unconventional approach to solving some of the environmental and technological issues facing the oil sands sector: collaboration.

Heavy oil is another tantalizing unconventional resource the oil patch is anxious to unlock. But as Nathan Vanderklippe demonstrates in this story, despite heavy oil’s enormous potential, there are a number of major challenges the industry will have to work through for this resource to make up a considerable mix of the future petroleum supply picture.

The search for unconventional oil and gas also is resulting in companies venturing into some pretty unconventional (and unfriendly) places. My story this month examines the risks Canadian companies face when they invest in international locations. It also delves into how they assess risk and what the costs are when international investments go bad.

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