Canadian energy sector marches to its own drummer – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – November 29, 2011)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Mr. Edwards said the strategy is shifting to direct
communication with the public to win “social licence”
from one that had been focused on targeting politicians
to enable them to develop appropriate policies.
(Claudia Cattaneo – Financial Post)

It’s a measure of how much the Canadian energy sector marches to its own drummer that Murray Edwards, one of its top investors and entrepreneurs, regards building pipelines to new markets and improving its image through better communication as the top issues facing it next year.

The next two? Project execution to achieve higher productivity and manage costs, and commodity prices. It’s telling that the challenges are associated with managing growth, in contrast to worries now consuming the market, such as the eurozone crisis and fears of another global downturn.

Opening new markets for Canada’s oil and improving communication efforts shot to the top of the industry’s to-do list for 2012 as a result of this month’s announcement by the United States to delay a decision on whether to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast, said the influential billionaire, a leading investor and chairman or vice-chairman of companies such as oil and gas producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and oil services firm Ensign Energy Services Inc.

He said existing pipelines will likely fill up around 2015 to 2016 as oil sands production expands. That gives the sector a window of only three or four years to obtain regulatory approval and build new capacity.

“Keystone XL highlights [that we’ve] got to continue to communicate our message,” he said on the sidelines of the Bennett Jones Business Forum in Lake Louise, Alta. on Friday. “This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. This is going to be a long-term process.”

Mr. Edwards said the strategy is shifting to direct communication with the public to win “social licence” from one that had been focused on targeting politicians to enable them to develop appropriate policies.

The Keystone XL decision was also a “wake up call” that Canada needs to diversify the market for its oil, for the benefit of the industry and for the future of the country.

“It reflects the importance of the industry to Alberta and to Canada,” Mr. Edwards said. “It’s the largest single economic driver in the country right now. Over the next two decades, it’s going to be the single largest generator of tax revenues to both the provincial [Alberta] and federal government.”

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post/Financial Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2011/11/28/canadian-energy-sector-marches-to-its-own-drummer/

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