The Suncor tar sands mining operation north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, November 3, 2011. Suncor is one of the largest oil sands producers in Alberta. (Reuters/TODD KOROL)
OTTAWA - There are fears that a slowing global economy and lower U.S. energy prices will convince oilsands investors to put their money back in their wallets and slow down development in Canada’s energy industry.
Already, Suncor has delayed a $21-billion plan to build a new oilsands mine and has put construction of North America’s largest upgrading facility on hold.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) remains optimistic, though.
“What we see is (oilsands) still continuing to grow total Canadian production today from about three million barrels a day to just over six million barrels a day by 2030,” said Greg Stringham, a senior executive with CAPP.
He said a lot of that growth will come from projects already underway or set to begin production soon.
Still, Stringham said Canada could shield itself from slumping American energy prices if pipelines are built to get oilsands bitumen to eastern Canada, to the West Coast for export to Asia and to the U.S. Gulf Coast where companies snag higher world prices.
“We really think that the biggest obstacle to the ongoing development is ensuring that we have that capacity in place,” he said.
Stringham said with Brazil, Venezuela and even the U.S. increasing oil production, if Canada doesn’t increase its pipeline capacity, the industry could miss the boat on exports to Asia.
“The longer time it takes us to actually get this infrastructure in place, the more that those refineries that are (in Asia) or are being built to access that oil will start looking to other sources,” he said.