March 13, 2014

Sold out crowd hears experts discuss how to get bitumen to market

Distinguished Speakers Panel tackles perspectives and challenges around oilpatch transportation issue

From presenting economic graphs and technical data to government efforts to diversify markets and discussing industry PR, more than 500 people heard the nuts and bolts – and then some – about Moving Canadian Oil to Market, last night's 2014 Distinguished Speakers Panel.

The sold out event, presented by the Schulich School of Engineering and the University of Calgary's Office of the Vice-President (Research), welcomed Alberta's energy minister, Diana McQueen, who said that getting Alberta's energy to markets was "job one" for the government. "It's important to diversify our markets and we're looking north, west, east and south to do so," she said to the packed room of Schulich alumni, industry professionals, students and others.

Pipelines are 'collateral damage'
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in Washington, laid out the economic argument for the pipeline to proceed, saying pipelines are "the ideal way" to transport oil to market. "The problem is not the project, it's the product," she said referring to the stalled U.S. approval to Keystone XL.

"It's really not about the pipelines," said Jim Donihee, the COO of the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association. "Some would say the pipelines are collateral damage." He presented a formula of communication and engagement, including CEPA's new external advisory panel of critics, to try to improve public trust and energy literacy. "Largely, the industry has not told its story," he said. "How do we step into the light?"

Oil and gas is half of Alberta's economy
Robert Mansell, the academic director of the university's School of Public Policy, discussed the importance of the oil and gas industry. "Directly and indirectly it accounts for 12 per cent of the Canadian economy and half of Alberta's economy." He discussed price differentials, the "very significant" transportation constraints and said, "We need access to higher growth value markets and virtually all high growth markets are offshore."

Jarrett Zielinski, the president and CEO of TORQ Energy Logistics, presented a wealth of information about safety, logistics and the economics of moving crude by rail (CBR). "There is an economic advantage to CBR as it avoids having to add 20 to 25 per cent of diluent to the gooey 'tootsie roll' product," he said.

The president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, John Carruthers, gave an overview of the federal joint review panel that concluded: "Canadians would be better off with Northern Gateway pipeline than without." As the company waits for June and federal government's decision on the pipeline that would take oil to the west coast for shipment to the Pacific Rim, he said: "We still lots of work to do to create public confidence in the project."

The panelists, who were moderated by Paul Stastny, a senior writer with Oil Week and Oilsands Review, took questions from each other and the audience leading to a robust discussion about how the industry could be "a little more proactive" in countering arguments from oil sands critics.

University's energy research strategy
It was "a stimulating, intellectual evening," as promised by President Elizabeth Cannon, as she and the interim dean of the Schulich School of Engineering, Bill Rosehart, welcomed everyone to the event.

"We are very proud to have a very focused strategy of how we can contribute to the opportunities and challenge facing Alberta and the world," she said of the university's energy research strategy: Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow.

Ed McCauley, vice-president (research), reiterated that the strategy puts the university in a leadership role for developing the next generation of energy innovations as he closed the evening and thanked the evening's sponsors: APEGA, Canadian Oil Sands, Daily Oil Bulletin, Kinder Morgan, MTG, Nexen, Oil Week, Stantec and TransCanada.