Who Owns the Oilsands

Which Countries Owns a Piece of the Canadian Oil Sands?

The oil sand projects are long life operations in a stable country, but involve high upfront costs and a lack of access to a viable market.  Some would argue that the oil sands ownership are not Canadian enough or some would say that is too much Canadian owned.
    The high upfront costs, the lack of pipeline capacity and the oil sands over concentration on the Canadian market, make it harder for oil sand juniors to operate.  There is little reason to put your capital at risk with a junior player when you have access to some of the largest and best oil sand operators in the world.  It is also hard to justify an oil producer to put most of their eggs in a high cost area with limited pipeline capacity.



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The Oil Sands Mining Operations

There are five large oil sands mining operators.  Suncor, Syncrude, Shell Albian Sands, Imperial Oil and Canadian Natural Resources.
    Together they have mining operations capable of producing over 1.5 million barrels of oil a day and have construction projects that may produce up to 285,000 barrels of oil a day.  The smaller mines produce up to 100,000 barrels a day, while the largest mines can produce almost 300,000 barrels of oil in a day.
    Suncor (Total does have a 29.2% stake in the upcoming Fort Hills Mine), Canadian Natural Resources and Imperial Oil (78.7% USA) (Exxon Mobil Canada does have a 29% stake in the Imperial Oil mines and 70% of Imperial Oil shares are owned by Exxon; so 71% x 70% + 29% is 78.7% American owned therefore 21.3% Canadian owned) are Canadian companies.  Shell Albian Sands is owned by Shell Canada (60% Netherlands), Chevron Canada Limited (20% USA) and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20% USA), it is now 70% Canadian Natural (Canada), 20% owned by Chevron (USA) and 10% owned by Shell (Netherlands).
    The Syncrude project is owned by Canadian Oil Sands (37% CDN), Suncor (12% CDN), Mocal Energy (5% Japan), Murphy Oil (5% USA) Suncor (59% Canadian), Sinopec (9% China), Imperial Oil (7.5% CDN and 17.5% USA) and Nexen (7% China).
    The ownership of each individual barrel of oil mined or currently in construction at an oil sands mine is; 75.1% for Canada (501,000 + (160,000 x 70.8%) + (407,000 x 66.5%) + (255,000 x 70%) + (220,000 x 21.3%) + 277,000) ÷ 1,820,000 = 75.1%.
    There is also a 17.3% stake for the U.S. (255,000 x 20% + (407,000 x 17.5%) + (220,000 x 78.7%) ) ÷ 1,820,000 = 16.2%.  Other notable countries are 3.6% for China, 2.6% for France and 1.4% for the Netherlands.



Oil Sands Mining Operations

Operator

Operating

Construction

Total

Suncor

501,000

160,000

661,000

Syncrude

407,000

0

407,000

Shell Albian Sands

255,000

0

255,000

Imperial Oil

220,000

0

220,000

Canadian Natural Resources

152,000

125,000

277,000

Total

1,535,000

285,000

1,820,000



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SAGD and CSS Operations in the Oil Sands Region

Only 3% surface are of the oil sands could be mined, the rest will need to be drilled.  Using Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD), oil producers can get the bitumen out of the ground.  It is a lot cheaper to build a SAGD operation.  The operations will also take up less surface area and don't require the oil sands to be near the surface.
    SAGD operations range from 500 barrels a day test operations to 100,000+ barrels a day mega operations.  The companies running SAGD operations range from relatively small oil producers to some of the largest in the world.  Unlike their oil sands mining competitors, SAGD operators are more internationally based, partly because they don't need to operate at the absolute best locations.
    The list of Canadian owned operations includes;

  • 50% of Cenovus two main operations at Christina Lake and Foster Creek
  • Suncor
  • Imperial Oil (30%)
  • 100% of Husky's Tucker project (30,000 barrels a day) currently in operation
  • 50% of Husky's Sunrise project (30,000 operating and 30,000 under construction)
  • Canadian Natural Resources operations
  • 87.61% of MEG Energy
  • Connacher operations
  • Pengrowth
  • Osum Oil Sands
  • Athabasca Oil Corporation

    The list of American owned operations include; 50% of ConocoPhilips Surmont operation; Imperial Oil (70%); 50% of Cenovus two main operations at Christina Lake and Foster Creek; and the Devon Canada operations.
    The list of Chinese owned operations include; CNOOC; 25% of Japan Canada Oil Sands Hangingstone project; Brion Energy operations (the Petrochina assets that were bought from Athabasca Oil); and 12.39% of MEG Energy.
    Other notable countries with stakes in SAGD oil sand operations include France with 50% of ConocoPhilips Surmont operation; Japan with 75% of Japan Canada Oil Sands Hangingstone project; Norway with the Statoil operations; the UK with 50% of Husky's Sunrise project (30,000 operating and 30,000 under construction) and the Netherlands with the Royal Dutch Shell operations.
    Total ownership percentages on SAGD and CSS projects that is operating or under construction is; 48.8% for Canada, 30.4% for the United States, 8.6% for China, 4.5% for France, 3.2% for the Netherlands, 1.8% for the UK, 1.4% for Japan and 1.2% for Norway.


Oil Sands SAGD and CSS Operations

Operator

Operating

Construction

Total

Cenovus Energy

288,800

102,000

390,800

Suncor

218,000

5,000

223,000

Imperial Oil

180,000

0

180,000

Canadian Natural Resources

160,000

0

160,000

ConocoPhillips Canada

149,200

0

149,200

Devon Canada

105,000

0

105,000

CNOOC

92,000

0

92,000

Husky

60,000

30,000

90,000

MEG Energy

60,000

0

60,000

Royal Dutch Shell

12,500

40,000

52,500

Brion Energy

0

35,000

35,000

Japan Canada Oil Sands

11,000

20,000

31,000

Connacher

20,000

0

20,000

Statoil

20,000

0

20,000

Pengrowth

12,500

3,500

16,000

Athabasca Oil Corporation

12,000

0

12,000

Osum Oil Sands

10,000

0

10,000

Total

1,411,000

235,500

1,646,500


Oil Sands Upgrading Capacity

The ownership of each individual barrel of oil upgraded or currently in construction at the oil sands is; 73% for Canada (387,000 + (350,000 x 66.5%) + (255,000 x 70%) + (220,000 x 21.3%) + 252,000 + 50,000) ÷ 1,572,500 = 73%.
    There is also a 18.1% stake for the U.S. (255,000 x 20% + (350,000 x 17.5%) + (220,000 x 78.7%) ) ÷ 1,572,500 = 18.1%.  Other notable countries is 7.3% for China and 1.6% for the Netherlands.


Oil Sands Upgrading

Operator

Operating

Construction

Total

Suncor

387,000

0

387,000

Syncrude

350,000

0

350,000

Shell Albian Sands

255,000

0

255,000

Canadian Natural Resources

127,000

125,000

252,000

Imperial Oil

220,000

0

220,000

CNOOC

58,500

0

58,500

Northwest Upgrading

0

50,000

50,000

Total

1,397,500

175,000

1,572,500


Total Production

There is 3,466,500 barrel of bitumen in production or projects currently under construction at the oil sands via the large scale mines and SAGD.  There is also 1,572,500 barrels that will be upgraded daily.
    The share of Canadian companies production is 2,169,911 barrels of production and 1,173,360 upgrading capacity or 62.6% of the overall production and 73% of the upgrading capacity.
    The United States produces 816,715 barrels and upgrades 285,390 barrels a day, which is 23.6% of the production and 18.1% of the upgrading capacity.


Oil Sands Operations by Country

Country

Production

Upgrading

Canada

62.6%

73%

United States

23.6%

18.1%

China

6%

7.3%

Netherlands

2.2%

1.6%

Rest or the World

5.6%

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About Our Numbers

We only took into consideration the projects that are currently operating or have started construction.  Our numbers came directly from the oil sands projects page from the Alberta government.  We removed the companies that only had test projects running or under construction with less 7,000 barrels of daily production.  We didn't include any projects that were On Hold, Announced, Application or Approved.  We didn't want to guess which companies were capable and/or willing to go ahead with their plans.
    For country ownership, we factored in minority stakes in individual projects and in individual companies.  We considered all subsidiary companies to be located in the parent's company's country.  If you see an error on the ownership of a project, please let us know.
    One number that took us by surprise was the Chinese ownership or lack thereof.  Maybe it is when they do buy, they buy big, but Canada also seems to, when it comes to commodity assets, sell at or near the top.



Oil Sands Projects via Alberta Government
ConocoPhilips Canada Oil Sands Operations