Issues concerning the oil and gas sector were front and centre at a presentation Monday at noon at the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce.
The audience heard from Chris Montgomery, manager of engagement, communications and outreach for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary. That is the organization representing some 60 oil and natural gas producers in Canada, ranging from small producers to major multinationals.
He began with a slide that indicated there would still be growth in the energy demand for oil and natural gas, even with countries collectively working to control climate change.
“The question is where the world gets that energy from,” Montgomery said. “We feel the world should be getting its oil and natural gas from us here in Canada, because the reality is … we can provide the lowest emission form of hydrocarbons to the world economy right here in Canada.”
There were no real surprises from Montgomery in his presentation, which was put on jointly by the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce and the Battlefords Rotary Club.
Montgomery outlined many of the challenges seen by the oil and gas sector at the moment, including concerns about pipeline capacity.
He pointed to graphs forecasting production for the next 15 years. The 2019 supply forecast was for seven million barrels per day, which exceeded the current pipeline capacity by three million.
Montgomery made the point that the long-term growth of the sector was “fully dependent on our ability to get more pipelines getting built. And of course we are having some challenges there.”
He then provided an update on the three major pipeline projects currently on the go: Enbridge Line 3 to the US midwest, Keystone XL to the US gulf coast and Trans Mountain to the west coast of BC.
All three have been mired in various regulatory or court challenges. All of them should have been in service this year, said Montgomery, Enbridge has to redo its environmental assessment in the US, Keystone XL has been approved by President Donald Trump but the start has been delayed by more court challenges.
The Trans Mountain expansion, which has been mired by court challenges, has received federal approval and Montgomery said it could have shovels in the ground within 30 days. But he added many of the groups that had launched court challenges before plan to do so again.
It was the pipeline situation that drew the most concerns from the approximately 25 people in the audience.
A number of people made clear they were still upset that the proposed Energy East pipeline, which would have shipped oil to the Atlantic coast, ended up getting scrapped.
Battlefords MLA Herb Cox was in the audience and he asked if “we’ve abandoned all hope of getting Energy East.”
Montgomery wasn’t willing to give up that hope but did not highlight it in his presentation “because there’s no project on the books today,” he said.
He said if someone did come forward with a project to flow oil to the East Coast, they would support it.
“That, for us, wasn’t just about shipping additional oil, it’s about getting Canadian oil to Canadians,” Montgomery said.
“It makes a lot more sense, certainly, I would argue for the whole country but certainly for western Canadian producers, to displace some of those foreign imports into eastern Canada. You know, it’s in the billions of dollars every year that we’re importing from places like Saudi Arabia and Algeria where we’re producing oil much better than they are in those places.”
One of those in the audience, Harry Zamonsky, expressed particularly frustration with the lack of progress on Trans Mountain and Energy East.
“What lack of gonads does Ottawa [have] that they can’t persuade British Columbia and the East? I’ve heard all of those stories, all of them are nonsensical,” Zamonsky asked. “When is somebody going to stand up to them and call a spade a spade? ... We should be building a pipeline to the East and the West coast, and get the Arab oil out of Canada.”
Montgomery replied that “certainly, it’s frustrating for the folks in Calgary and the workers in the field that we can’t get these projects built.”
In speaking to reporters afterwards, Montgomery noted the pipeline delays were an obvious concern for those in the industry.
“It creates a lot of uncertainty for business,” said Montgomery. “Obviously the local economy in North Battleford is dependent on the oil and gas sector. And so their future is dependent on the future of the oil and gas industry and if we’re going to grow we need new pipelines.”