Canada Oil Sands Continue to Gain Global Attention
Canada holds the largest crude oil deposits outside the Middle East, most of which are in the form of oil sands, and are expected to play a major role in supplying the world’s future energy requirements, states a new report by energy experts GlobalData.
The new research states that Canada is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of proved oil reserves, with 175.2 billion barrels (bbl) of proved oil reserves at the end of 2011, out of which 169.2 billion bbl of reserves were available as oil sands. Development of the oil sands industry in Canada will continue to be spurred on by the continuous growth of global oil demand and high crude oil prices, as oil sands projects once seen as economically unviable are now being considered profitable. The favorable business and political climate in Canada, and continuous technological advancements are also set to support industry growth.
Oil sands are essentially bitumen, an extra-heavy crude oil, mixed with sand, water, and clay, or other minerals. Bitumen is so viscous that it cannot be pumped or flow without heating or dilution, and needs treatment before undergoing processing in refineries.
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Production from the Canadian oil sands industry is expected to increase in the future, due to the start of new projects, and the development of technologies which will enable enhanced oil sands processing. Substantial financial activity is taking place in the market, with several companies making investments. The industry also saw the announcement of a significant acquisition in 2012 – the acquisition of Nexen Inc by China’s CNOOC Ltd for $15.1 billion – which reflected a global interest held in Canada’s unconventional oil assets. Syncrude, the largest oil sands project in Canada, is also expected to undergo expansion by 2018, and Fort Hills is one of the largest planned oil sands projects, with a capacity to produce 160,000bbl/d by 2016.
The huge oil sands reserves in Canada will contribute towards global energy security. Canada is already the largest supplier of crude oil and petroleum products to the US, accounting for nearly 25% of US crude oil and petroleum imports in 2011. International Oil Companies (IOCs) can currently access only one in six barrels of the world’s known oil reserves, and approximately half of these reserves are available in Canada as oil sands deposits. Canada therefore could play a substantial role in ensuring future global energy security.
However, the development of oil sands in Canada is attracting criticism due to several issues such as high water use and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
The oil sands industry in Canada produced approximately 408.2 million barrels (MMbbl) of bitumen and synthetic crude in 2006, growing at an Average Annual Growth Rate (AAGR) of 7.1% to reach 581.9 MMbbl in 2011. Production is expected to increase to 1,157.8 MMbbl by 2020.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.