TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Project is one of the most polarizing North American undertakings in recent years. It seems everybody has an opinion on the project. And public figures on both sides of the border, from politicians to celebrities, have not been shy about adding their voices to the debate about whether it’s in the United States’ best interests to import more Canadian oil sands-derived crude.
But one voice in particular may resonate more loudly than the others: that of U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose commissioned report about North American natural gas and oil resources appears to put Canadian oil sands production squarely in America’s energy future.
The September 2011 report, titled “Prudent Development – Realizing the Potential of North America’s Abundant Natural Gas and Oil Resources,” was prepared by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy, first established in 1946. Eighteen months in the making, the report involved more than 400 experts from a variety of backgrounds and organizations, mostly from outside the oil and gas industry.
The report characterized the Alberta oil sands as one of several “already-producing world-class basins,” noting oil sands’ recoverable oil potential of more than 300 billion barrels and the possibility of production growing from the current 1.5 million barrels per day to between three and six million barrels per day by 2035.
The report also stated that oil sands resources could enable continued oil production growth through 2050, providing “considerable benefits for the North American economy and energy security.”
That oil sands would place prominently in a view of America’s energy future shouldn’t be a big surprise, considering the big role Canada plays in America’s energy present.
Canada is already the largest provider of oil imports to the U.S., about 2.1 million barrels per day as compared to Saudi Arabia’s 1.3 million barrels per day.
What impact, if any, the U.S. Energy Secretary’s report is having on ongoing Department of State deliberations about the Keystone project is anybody’s guess.
But for the oil sands industry and people who follow this debate, the report appears to validate what we’ve believed all along: that Canada’s oil sands is a world-class resource which is uniquely positioned to meet growing U.S. energy demands.