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The difference between the value of 3.42 barrels of bitumen and an approximate refinery output of 2 barrels of gasoline (US Gulf Coast) and 1 barrel of low-sulphur diesel (LA).

Refine it where you mine it?

The question of what, if anything, Alberta should do to encourage more upgrading or refining in the province will be an important one regardless of which party wins the election on Monday.  This question is pressing as, within the next decade, the province expects to receive about 300,000 barrels per day in bitumen as royalty payments (PDF), and […]

The #climate and GHG question I would have asked

In today’s Edmonton Journal/Calgary Herald on-line leaders debate (a great format, BTW), the leaders were asked the following question: Do you believe in climate change? What should be the provincial government’s response to climate change, or should the provincial government wait for a plan from the federal government?

Differential royalties for upgraded vs. non-upgraded bitumen

Tonight, I am looking for some informed opinions on a topic about which I do not know much.  I spent some time this evening looking into whether a differential royalty regime for oilsands bitumen based on its eventual use would survive a challenge under either the NAFTA or the WTO.  This inquiry was was motivated […]

Your oilsands royalty primer

Bitumen royalties accounted for 10% of total Alberta government revenues in 2010-2011, and that is expected (according to the most recent Alberta Budget) to climb to approximately 20% of total government revenues, or $9.9 billion dollars by 2014-2015.  Both royalty revenue estimates and royalty rates make for contentious subjects in Alberta, and this post is intended […]

Questions I’ll be asking #abvote candidates

What will determine my vote on April 23rd? I suppose it will surprise no one that I will vote based on the energy and environmental policies of the parties.  My key issue list includes 5 categories: 1) Savings, transparency, and accountability; 2) Market access; 3) Local environmental management; 4) Global environmental credibility; and 5) Getting […]

FirstEnergy Capital

More on upgrading and refining in Alberta

This week, the question of whether or not and, if so, how, the Government of Alberta should encourage upgrading and/or refining of bitumen in the province is back on the front page.  Much of this coverage is due to backlash over the Government’s decision to not proceed with the Alberta First Nations Energy Center (AFNEC) […]

Data: Statistics Canada and the US EIA, Author's Figure

When you fill up your tank, thank our “petrodollar”

Last night, I wrote a long post on exchange rates, and discussed the impact of the Canadian dollar appreciation on our purchasing power. As usual, the best way to demonstrate that increase in purchasing power is with a graphic, so here you go: What you’re looking at is the relative changes in gas prices, in local […]

Source: CERI (

On exchange rates and the importance of “net” exports

Last week, BC economist Robyn Allan weighed-in on the McGuity-Redford fiasco with a post of the effect of oil extraction on the Canadian dollar, and the knock-on effects of a high dollar on Canadian industry, including the oil and gas sector.  Ms. Allan makes some important points, some which surprised me, but she also makes […]

The 'economics' of upgrading

The ‘economics’ of upgrading

Why would you buy an oilsands lease, or if you had one, why might you chose to invest billions of dollars of your money, up front, to produce oil for the next 40-50 years? The answer is pretty simple – given your view of future oil prices, the costs of building and operating the plant, […]

Source: IEA World Energy Outlook, 2010.

An economist pretending to be a geologist

Last night, I wrote a long post on the EU Fuel Quality Directive, on which a vote is expected next week. The Fuel Quality Directive has attracted a great deal of attention here in Canada because it would assign a higher emissions rating to Alberta oilsands than to other sources of crude oil, and I have […]