Canadian liquids supply set to grow
 
  November 2017
Canadian liquids supply set to grow

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After a slow-down in liquids production growth seen last year, liquids output in Canada is set for a medium to long-term growth, driven by oil sands volumes and associated liquids from shale gas plays. This article assesses the outlook for the Canadian market, illustrated by total liquids production, project additions and spending. 

Figure 1 depicts liquids production in Canada by supply type from 2010 to 2025. Total liquids output remained at 4.4 million bbl/d in 2016, at the same level as in 2015. 2017, on the other hand, is estimated to be the year of production rebound, with additions of around 270 thousand bbl/d. Amid continued decline in conventional supply, oil sands are driving the supply increase this year.

Oil sands are expected to account for over 60% of Canada’s liquids production by 2025. Tight oil volumes are also forecasted to grow in the medium to long-term, while extra heavy oil will not see much change in volumes produced in the next ten years. Overall, Canada is anticipated to add around 1.6 million bbl/d by 2025, with the total liquids production in the country standing at 5 million bbl/d, including around 500 thousand bbl/d of NGLs.

Figure 2 shows the year-over-year liquids production additions in Canada from 2011 to 2025. The top projects contributing to production growth are highlighted. Oil sands projects show the highest growth in volumes, adding 120 thousand bbl/d per year on average.

Next year, significant contributions to oil supply growth are expected from recently sanctioned oil sands projects, such as the Suncor-operated Fort Hills (slated for startup by the end of this year) and CNRL’s Horizon (phase 3 expansion was brought online in November 2017), as well as the offshore Hebron project, planned for first oil by the end of 2017. The contribution of unsanctioned projects is insignificant, as operators delay the decision for further sanctioning of projects amid uncertainty over the oil prices.

Figure 3 shows Canada’s total spending from 2010 to 2025 split by category. Investments (Capex) are expected to decrease from the peak level of $60 billion to $26 billion this year. This reflects the reduction in activity as a response to lower oil prices, but also the completion of major oil sands projects, such as Surmont Oil phase 2, Imperial Oil’s Kearl expansion phase, and Sunrise phase 1, that were completed and came online in 2015.

Investments are expected to start growing from 2019, reaching over $40 billion by 2025. The growth is driven mainly by the growing unconventional activity in the Montney, Spirit River and Duvernay plays. Operational expenditure (Opex) is expected to increase from around $32 billion in 2010, to over $50 billion in 2025, consistent with the production trend shown in Figure 1.

Conclusion

The Canadian E&P industry is expected to add around 1.6 million bbl/d in liquids supply by 2025. Volume additions will be particularly driven by the ramp-up of production on recently sanctioned oil sands projects. Shale gas activity in the country will see the largest increase in investments from 2019 and going forward.