(The Canadian Press)

Chinese companies commit to Canadian oilsands despite setbacks, poor operating results

European and U.S. companies have cut back

While some European and U.S. companies cut their exposure to the Canadian oilsands, China’s Big Three oil giants — CNOOC, PetroChina and Sinopec — seem content to let their bets ride even if the results haven’t been spectacular.

In 2018, PetroChina produced an average of just 7,300 barrels per day of bitumen from its MacKay River thermal oilsands project, although it was designed to produce 35,000 bpd. In June, its output was about 8,700 bpd.

The Beijing-based company paid $1.9 billion in 2009 for 60 per cent interests in the proposed MacKay River and Dover oilsands projects being developed by Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. (now just Athabasca Oil Corp.), then bought out the rest of MacKay for $680 million in 2012 and Dover for $1.2 billion in 2014.

“MacKay River is located in an area with complex geology, which creates challenges to heat up the reservoir to get the bitumen flowing,” said spokesman Davis Sheremata in an emailed statement.

The company is drilling new wells and experimenting with various technologies to boost output, he said, adding a go-ahead for Dover has been put on hold until MacKay proves itself.

Still, “PetroChina Canada is committed to Canada for the long-term, having maintained its investments through economically challenging times.”

CNOOC produced about 71,000 bpd from the oilsands in 2018, little changed from 66,800 bpd in 2014, shortly after it spent $15.1 billion to buy Calgary’s Nexen Energy and its diverse portfolio of domestic and international assets.

“Our oilsands assets are an important part of our North American portfolio and we remain committed to our Canadian operations,” CNOOC spokesman Kyle Glennie wrote in a brief email.

Meanwhile, Sinopec paid $4.65 billion to buy a nine per cent stake in the Syncrude oilsands mining consortium from ConocoPhillips in 2010 and its resulting production has been steady since, registering just over 27,000 bpd in 2018.

The Chinese energy majors employ “patient capital” and it seems unlikely they will leave the oilsands anytime soon, said Jia Wang, deputy director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta.

“The assets they bought may not be the most profitable or may require more capital intensive development. … (but) these are large Chinese companies, they’re not likely to become bankrupt,” she said.

“They have been through thick and thin, and different cycles of boom and bust. These (oilsands) operations in the grand scheme of these massive companies are not the largest chunk of their business so they can afford to have a presence here without incurring too much loss.”

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

TC Energy enlists Alberta to help finish US$8-billion Keystone XL project

Alberta government has agreed toinvest about US$1.1 billion (C$1.5 billion) as equity in the project

Canada Post reminds people to keep a safe distance

Encounters with dogs have increased as more people stay at home

Ponoka County nets nearly $2.1 million surplus in 2019

Surplus moved to reserves, then just as quickly used to balance 2020 budget

Wolf Creek Public Schools answers questions about home-based learning

WCPS to roll out home-based learning details this week, March 30 to April 3

UPDATED: How the coronavirus is impacting the Ponoka area

Precautions, advisories, and cancelled community events

Alberta’s energy war room to spend only on ‘subsistence operations’ due to COVID-19

Alberta’s energy war room to spend only on ‘subsistence operations’ due to COVID-19

Father of Humboldt Bronco disappointed Saskatchewan has relaxed trucking rules

Father of Humboldt Bronco disappointed Saskatchewan has relaxed trucking rules

Alberta education minister resists Opposition calls to rescind mass layoffs

Alberta education minister resists Opposition calls to rescind mass layoffs

Alberta Medical Association calls health-care changes irresponsible during pandemic

Alberta Medical Association calls health-care changes irresponsible during pandemic

Crosby, McDavid favourites again in NHLPA annual poll

Crosby, McDavid favourites again in NHLPA annual poll

Toronto not banning sports events through June yet, but other measures in place

Toronto not banning sports events through June yet, but other measures in place

Too little too late? Experts decry Mexico virus policy delay

Too little too late? Experts decry Mexico virus policy delay

Most Read