HicksBiz Blog

Category: Oil + Gas

Oil + Gas

Oil's not well in Alberta: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun Aug. 4, 2012

We’ve been dangerously smug.Our American friends are buried in debt, our European allies are gasping for financial air.Cash-rich China, still buying up our oil industry without blinking an eye, is facing an economic slowdown.Our cousins down east are finding jobs harder and harder to come by.But we Albertans have laughed off economic hardship.We have been immune to the world-wide economic misery of the past four years.Thanks to our beautiful, sticky, bullet-proof oil.Oil pouring out of the oilsands, oil miraculously flowing from once-dry oil wells thanks to new technology.While everything else seemed to fall in value these past few years, oil held up.Oil, refined into gasoline and diesel, remained the world's energy of choice for transportation.Oil has stayed on either side of $100 a barrel for several years now.Brace yourselves.The party, muted as it is, may soon be over.Oil has dropped recently from that $100 benchmark down to its latest price of $88, after falling under $80 at the end of June.Hundreds of e ... Read the rest of entry »

Time to talk Upgraders: Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun on Sat. May 5, 2012

(This column originally appeared in the Edmonton Sun, entitled "Time to Talk Upgrades" with 17 comments as of May 7, 2012. Comments almost all decrying the shipping of oil sands bitumen without value-added processing in Alberta.) About six years ago Greater Edmonton was hot-to-trot about the possibility of seven upgraders being built (over time) in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland – the petrochemical industrial zone around Fort Saskatchewan. Such a vision it was: Seven super-sized, pre-refineries, taking in the molasses-like heavy oil or bitumen from the oilsands at one end, turning out sweet, easy flowing “synthetic” (or refinery-ready) oil at the other. Each upgrader would pump billions of new dollars into the local economy and keep the trades busy for decades without ever having to leave home. Once up and running, the upgraders would still continue to expand to handle the ever-growing bitumen supply, hire hundreds of operators, pay local taxes, and so on. With today’s techno ... Read the rest of entry »

Include oil & gas, and Edmonton is a hotbed of new technology - originally published in HIcks on Biz column of the Edmonton Sun, April 14, 2012

There’s a default position in Canadian business that goes unchallenged.Canadians aren’t innovative. Canadians aren’t productive. Canadians aren’t inventive.The mantra is repeated in northern Alberta. Our economy doesn’t “do” research and development. We’re scared of risk and the fear of failure associated with new technology, new processes. We’re too used to the easy life produced by an endless gusher of oil and gas.I’ve had the opportunity to explore this intriguing topic, working a few days a week as an adviser to TEC Edmonton, an incubator and accelerator of technology-intensive startup businesses.The business gurus have got it all wrong. This city and region should proclaim itself just as techno-savvy as “knowledge-based” cities like Boulder, San Antonio or Kitchener-Waterloo.Four events will counter the perception of Edmonton being ho-hum in “conventional” technology — the Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud conference, April 23 to 25 (abtech.ca), the 10th annual TEC VenturePrize Awards and Dinner (venture ... Read the rest of entry »

Worker shortage looms again: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, April 7, 2012

Remember the bumper sticker from the ‘80s, “Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away the next time.” That, of course, was two booms ago.Now we are on the cusp, the very beginning of the third.We seem to be getting smarter at this, but not much.All the corporate talk at the downtown Ricky’s Grill in the mornings, at the Hardware Grill at lunch, is about the impending labour shortage.“Workforce, workforce, workforce,” says Edmonton Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Martin Salloum. “That’s all our members are talking about.”Driven by the global need for our clean oil, Northern Alberta is relentlessly growing. New oil extraction plants come on stream nearly every month in the oilsands. Conventional oil wells are resurrected thanks to new technology. Natural gas is readying for an inevitable recovery once it can be shipped to Asia and replaces coal in electricity generation.Brains and brawn are needed for all the above. Geologists to find the energy, engineers to design the in ... Read the rest of entry »

Many Ways to Move Our Oil - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun of Sat. March 17, 2012

One way or another, our bitumen (heavy oil) will get to China. There's a myth building up that the proposed but seriously opposed Northern Gateway pipeline is the only option to get oil from the oil sands to Asia.Not true. It's the most practical and likely the cheapest option, heading straight as an arrow from Edmonton through the northern B.C. interior to the port town of Kitimat.Here's the deal.We now produce 2.9 million barrels of oil a day (MBD) in Western Canada, about 60% of that from the oil sands.We can't come close to using that much - 2.1 million barrels are exported, fairly easily at the moment through existing pipelines, 99% of it heading to the Excited States.The source of our wealth? Do the math! At $100 a barrel, that's $210 million a day — or about $75 billion a year.By 2020, only eight years, we'll be up to 3.5 million barrels a day. Of that, 80% will be from the oil sands.The pipelines will get crowded. The last thing we want, as the principal beneficiaries of this thick black gooey stuff, ... Read the rest of entry »

Fear of fracking in the oil and gas biz

Here's the best story I've read to date explaining what "fracking" - the new technology that is unlocking heretofore unobtainable oil and gas out of "conventional" oil and gas fields - is all about. From the Globe & Mail, Sat. March 10, 2012 edition,http: "Fear of fracking: How public concerns put an energy reniassance at risk." And it's a considered review of the environmental worries around fracking. Seems to me there is a quite simple solution to immediate fracking concerns, that all the underground explosions are upsetting the natural order of things in the sub-stratas, a fear that contaminates could leak into clean-water underground acquifers. Whether this fear is justified is a whole different story. Most fracking happens hundreds, if not thousands of metres below the water zones that play into the Earth's ecological cycles. Responsible governments should simply impose no-drill precautionary safety zones - at whatever distances the scientists agree upon - around all hamlets, villages, towns and citi ... Read the rest of entry »

Oil's well with Alberta Energy - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun, originally posted Saturday, March 03, 2012

Oil's well with Alberta energy 6 BY GRAHAM HICKS ,EDMONTON SUNFIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012 12:29 PM MST | UPDATED: SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012 12:39 PM MST 1Change text size for the storyPrint this storyReport an error If you’re going to understand the nature of business in Edmonton, understand just one thing.All roads lead to energy.Oil, natural gas, and that poor kid on the wrong side of the environmental tracks, coal.You likely know the essentials – 300 to 600 million years ago, all things lush and green were deeply buried and eventually decayed into hydrocarbon molecules.Mother Nature did us a big favour, pushing up the Rockies so those hydrocarbons oozed eastward and were concentrated under what happily happened to be Alberta.Generally speaking, natural gas is really deep, conventional oil is deep, and heavy oil close to the surface. Alberta sits on top of one of the world’s 40 major oil basins.Ever since the Leduc #1 oil well hit pay dirt in 1947, we have fretted over oil’s end.Once the big under ... Read the rest of entry »

Recommended oil + gas blog from University of Alberta geologist Murray Gingras

When I took The Fundamentals of Energy, Environment and Sustainabilty at the University of Alberta in 2010, petroleum geologist professor Murray Gingras handled the geological side of the multi-disciplinary course.

He was one of the better teachers I've ever had, able to present his material in a way that was interesting, fascinating and somehow stuck in your mind!

Murray has been writing an oil and gas blog that's covering some important aspects of Alberta's oil and gas, i.e. the pros and cons of fracking and other social issues surrounding oil and gas extraction.

He's good, because A) he knows his stuff inside out, B) he's not writing from any pre-determined ideological viewpoint and C) he writes clearly, in a style most of us can read.

Good bookmark for anybody who follows the sociological issues around Alberta's #1 industry and the source of most of our wealth.
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