After a turbulent year, Canada’s energy industry braces for more upheaval in 2021

Trans Mountain ends contracts with 2 companies on halted expansion project

Turbulent, chaotic, overwhelming — it has been the form of yr that exams an individual’s nerves and their vocabulary. At occasions, there have been no phrases.

Canada’s oil and gasoline sector did not escape the tumult, in fact, turned on its head by a global oil value warfare and a pandemic that crushed gas demand.

It was additionally a yr the place discuss of “power transition” was common amongst policy-makers — and world oil producers. The dialogue about what’s subsequent had a higher sense of urgency.

The yr forward will doubtless provide little respite, with the tempo of financial restoration, pipeline growth, local weather coverage and a brand new occupant of the White Home all a part of an unpredictable combine.

The problem for a lot of who work within the trade might lie once more in how rapidly they’re able to adapt in an unpredictable and ever-changing world.

Vaccines and financial restoration

The unfold of COVID-19 world wide this yr squashed gas demand, taking crude oil costs down with it. These costs even turned unfavorable at one level.

Canada’s oilpatch slashed jobs and spending. 

Market watchers count on vaccines will assist air and car journey choose up once more, lifting oil demand, however when and the way a lot stay subjects of debate.

“I believe there’s actually lots of volatility available in the market as we glance over the following six to even 9 months,” stated Kevin Birn, a Calgary-based analyst with market analysis agency IHS Markit. 

How quickly individuals resume air and car journey in huge numbers after the rollout of vaccines will probably be key to boosting demand for gas and crude oil. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

There are additionally questions on what the restoration will appear to be. Some argue the pandemic will usher in lasting change, comparable to extra individuals working from residence as an alternative of commuting.

It even led to earnest dialogue about how quickly peak oil consumption will arrive — a debate that may little question proceed in 2021.

Nonetheless, in mid-December, the North American benchmark value for a barrel of oil climbed to effectively over $45 US as merchants noticed some gentle on the finish of the pandemic tunnel.

Extra consolidation

The $3.8-billion merger of two key gamers within the Canadian oil and gasoline enterprise — Husky Power and Cenovus Power — was among the many huge surprises of 2020.

The Canadian oil and gasoline sector is unlikely to see one other merger of such dimension in 2021, however analysts consider consolidation will proceed within the months forward.

After the merger between Cenovus and Husky, the mixed firm will probably be price greater than $23 billion. Extra consolidation is anticipated in 2021, particularly amongst smaller gamers. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg, CBC)

“There’s lots of small operators with good belongings that may’t essentially afford to maintain working,” stated Stephanie Kainz, a senior affiliate with Enverus, an power information analytics agency. 

Such consolidation might help make for simpler and environment friendly manufacturing within the sector, however takeovers and mergers will not reduce nervousness ranges for staff. The merger between Husky and Cenovus is anticipated to end in round 2,000 layoffs.

Emissions plans

The federal Liberal authorities just lately laid out plans for chopping greenhouse gasoline emissions, and debate over the technique is certain to proceed effectively into 2021.

The centrepiece of the coverage is a gradual enhance within the federal carbon tax on fuels, which suggests pump costs, for instance, will rise by greater than 37 cents a litre by 2030. Rebates will probably be used to compensate customers for related cost-of-living will increase.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes an announcement on the federal government’s up to date local weather change plan in Ottawa earlier this month. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Taxes are solely a part of the general plan, which incorporates $15 billion in new spending on local weather initiatives over the following 10 years, together with bettering the nation’s electrical car charging infrastructure and funding for residence retrofits.

The carbon tax technique was fast to attract hearth in Alberta, the place critics say it is going to price jobs. However supporters say the coverage will create employment because it drives the nation towards a future in a aggressive, low-carbon world. 

After all, the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax continues to be earlier than the Supreme Court docket of Canada, with the end result additionally anticipated within the new yr. 

Clouds over Keystone XL

The long-running saga surrounding Keystone XL might come to a head in 2021.

The pipeline challenge, which goals to get extra Alberta crude to Gulf Coast refineries within the U.S., has lengthy confronted environmental opposition. Quickly, it is going to face an unfriendly White Home, too.

President-elect Joe Biden has known as it “tarsands that we do not want,” with environmentalists urging him to stay as much as the powerful discuss by cancelling a essential allow for the road.

Mission supporters will hope the Alberta and federal governments can persuade Biden of the challenge’s financial deserves, however observers count on an uphill climb.

“I do have my doubts,” stated Kainz, the senior affiliate with Enverus.

Pipe prepared for use for the development of the Canadian leg of Keystone XL close to the city of Oyen, Alta., in September 2020. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)


In the meantime, work will proceed on two different main pipeline tasks: Enbridge’s Line 3 and the Trans Mountain growth, which the federal authorities bought for $4.5 billion in 2018. 

Analysts have stated constructing two of three pipelines is vital to making sure higher costs for Canadian crude.

Environmentalists say any challenge that permits for oilsands growth can be inconsistent with the 2050 net-zero emissions targets for North America.

Getting ready for the power future

Anticipate to listen to extra discuss from policy-makers and executives about getting ready for the power future, whether or not that is innovation within the oil trade, geothermal know-how or hydrogen growth.

“I believe that is the yr that firms can actually set the course for the place they wish to go over the following decade, and possibly the following two or three many years,” stated Warren Mabee, director of Queen’s College’s Institute for Power and Environmental Coverage. 

Provincial and federal governments have developed hydrogen methods to develop the sector and compete globally. (Sean Gallup/Getty Pictures)

Corporations comparable to Cenovus, Canadian Pure Sources and Enbridge have pledged to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. Now, individuals will wish to know extra about how firms that make such guarantees intend to satisfy their commitments and what progress they’re making.

Investor scrutiny — and divestment — are a part of a market that’s more and more weighing local weather change and local weather threat

Large worldwide oil gamers are additionally creating methods for the power transition. Royal Dutch Shell, for instance, has plans to maneuver into {the electrical} energy sector and renewable power. 

All of this to say, the dialogue about the way forward for power, in all types, is getting extra consideration. And there will probably be extra to come back in 2021, particularly because the U.S. is anticipated to maneuver ahead on greening its financial system. 

In Canada, the oil and gasoline sector is anticipated to assist drive the financial restoration. It’s in search of extra methods to scale back emissions. Governments are additionally creating methods to assist develop hydrogen and geothermal into important gamers within the power financial system.  

“It may be a extremely good yr for Canadian power,” Mabee stated. “I believe that that is the yr … that we will do a little bit of a re-think of how we wish to energy our society.”

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