ANALYSIS: Rail supply of brent crude offers Canada a pipeline to the future

Updated 25 November 2018

ANALYSIS: Rail supply of brent crude offers Canada a pipeline to the future

Faisal Mrza RIYADH: Crude oil prices continued their downward fall last week, reaching their lowest level in more than a year, almost 30 percent lower than in last October. Brent crude ended the week at $58.80 per barrel and WTI fell to $50.42.
The steep slide started in early November from oversupply concerns that put bearish pressures on market sentiments. A worldwide glut is the major concern for futures, while the prompt physical market is balanced.
The real physical supply concern must be focused on the pipeline constraints that weigh on Canadian heavy crude. The Western Canadian Select (WCS) benchmark dipped to a record low last week, down to $11 per barrel, with pipeline demand far over capacity. This is the lowest since the financial crisis of 2008.
Although Canada has 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, 95 percent of these reserves are heavy unconventional oil in the Canadian Oil Sands, located in the province of Alberta in the west.
Due to a geographical infrastructure imbalance, the capacity of the Canadian refineries, which reaches about 1.9 million barrels per day, is mostly located in the east.
In fact, the Canadians import oil to supply their eastern refineries. Therefore, Canada cannot take full benefit from its oil sands. It exports nearly all its oil production to the US at a steep discount. Due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure, the loss to the Canadian economy stands at $80 million per day.
Output from Canada’s oil sands is far beyond pipeline capacity to its US markets. Two pipeline projects that should have helped are still tied up in legal proceedings. The TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline is supposed to begin near Hardisty, Alberta, Canada and end in Steele City, Nebraska, US. It would have the capacity to deliver up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day. On Nov. 8, a US court issued an order blocking construction until an additional environmental review is conducted.
The existing Trans Mountain pipeline carries 300,000 barrels of crude and refined oil per day from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. Construction was supposed to begin this year on a 590,000-barrel expansion to the pipeline. However, in August 2018, on the same day that approval came for the pipeline to be sold to the Canadian government, an ongoing court battle blocked the permit for the pipeline expansion.
With pipelines over capacity, Canadian producers are moving their crude oil by rail. Crude-by-rail loadings at monitored terminals in Western Canada reached a record high monthly average of 274,000 barrels per day in October, according to Genscape Inc. data. This is more than double a year ago. The situation is dire. For the week ending Nov. 9, crude inventories at five monitored terminals in Western Canada reached 34.2 million barrels. The discount on Canadian crude is so high that some US refineries are reselling the oil outright rather than processing it.
The Canadian government is working on a deal to buy trains to move an additional 120,000 to 140,000 barrels of crude per day. Shipping crude by rail has its detractors, however. Opponents of the practice call the transportation method “bomb trains,” and claim that spills and deaths are inevitable when crude-by-rail shipments increase. As oil takes over the railways, overall shipping costs go up as capacity is strained. Pressure builds on the rail network, resulting in shipping delays for other goods. And Canadian production will continue to rise. Imperial Oil will move forward with construction of its $2 billion Aspen project in northern Alberta. The 75,000 barrel per day project is expected to begin producing in 2022.
The oil industry had hoped that well-maintained pipelines would last forever. A major spill from the Enbridge pipeline in 2010 showed that even with excellent maintenance and surveillance, it is difficult to keep pipelines running incident free. More than 40 percent of US oil pipelines were built in the 1950s and 1960s. In Alberta, at least 40 percent of the pipeline network was built before 1990.
Corrosion is a major issue. Pipeline companies fight rust corrosion through the use of coatings and cathodic protection. But with time, all coatings fail, and the level of expenditure increases for inspection and maintenance to keep pipelines intact. When downtime on the pipelines is required for maintenance, this disrupts crude oil flows.
For now, Canada will move forward with the expansion of crude oil rail shipments. A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that the environmental and health costs of transporting oil by rail are double the cost by pipeline. But with Alberta desperate to relieve the pressure on oil storage in the province, it is certain that for the foreseeable future rail shipments of Canadian crude are the only option.

Faisal Mrza is an energy and oil marketing consultant. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. He is the president of #Faisal_Mrza Consulting. Twitter: @faisalmrza


UAE central bank further eases liquidity measures for lenders

Updated 09 August 2020

UAE central bank further eases liquidity measures for lenders

DUBAI: UAE monetary authorities further eased liquidity measures for the country’s banks, enabling them to free up more cash to lend to companies and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE government in March launched the $69.707 billion Targeted Economic Support Scheme (TESS), which includes $13.615 billion provided by the central bank via collateralized loans at zero cost to all banks operating in the country.

Monetary authorities are “reviewing the existing thresholds of two prudential ratios: the Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) and the Advances to Stable Resources Ratio (ASRR) by temporarily relaxing the requirements for the structural liquidity position of banks,” a statement from the UAE Central Bank said, as reported by state news agency WAM.

“This step comes as an additional measure encouraging banks to strengthen the implementation of the TESS and support their impacted customers in overcoming the repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic, the statement added.

For the NSFR, mandatory for the five largest UAE banks, lenders were allowed to go below the 100 percent threshold, but not lower than 90 percent, while ASRRs could go beyond 100 percent but not higher than 110 percent.

The purposal of these ratios is to ensure that long-term assets are funded by stable resources of funding, and their relaxation means banks will have more flexibility in managing their balance sheets.

“The relaxation of the two structural liquidity ratios aims to further facilitate the flow of funds from banks into the economy,” UAE central bank governor Abdulhamid M. Saeed said.

“The temporary relaxation of NSFR and ASRR will supplement the other measures CBUAE has taken under the TESS to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on private corporates, small and medium-sized enterprises and individuals.”

UAE banks have accessed about 87.2 percent – or $11.872 billion – of the Dh50 billion TESS support provided by the central bank as of July while 9,527 small and medium enterprises and more than 260,600 individuals have benefited from the scheme.