More turbulenceÂ in VenezuelaÂ â€” including the threat of United States sanctions on its crude oil exports â€” hasÂ Canada’s oilpatch watching carefully for howÂ the impact willÂ ripple across the industry.Â
Analysts say sanctions, or a further drop in Venezuelan oil output, could leaveÂ American refinersÂ on the hunt for heavyÂ crude from elsewhere, providing a potential price lift for Canadian producers.
But with limitedÂ ability to get more oil to the Gulf Coast, some believe the Canadian sector won’t be able to seize the additional market share it otherwise might.
Longer term, if Venezuela changes political regimes, the upheavalÂ could see the South American country’s oil production soar once again â€” andÂ change the outlook for global prices.
“Any more reduction in Venezuela crude could have an impact on the price of heavy crude for Canadian producers,”Â said KevinÂ Birn,Â anÂ oilsandsÂ analyst with IHSÂ MarkitÂ in Calgary.Â
“In terms of our ability to maximize the benefit, we are constrained by our own infrastructure.”
Venezuela’s political and economic outlook is unclear as opposition leader Juan Guaido and interim president Nicolas Maduro struggle for control of the country.
Traditionally, Canada and Venezuela produce heavy oil thatÂ compete for space in the U.S. market. However,Â Venezuela crude production has fallen dramatically in recent years amidÂ economic and political strife.
“There’s been a developing opportunity for Canadian crude, in particular going into the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries,” said Allan Fogwill,Â president of the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
“They were getting most of their heavy crude from Venezuela and MexicoÂ â€”Â and a little bit from Canada.Â Now, with the concerns in Venezuela, that means those refineries are looking north to Canadian producers.”
Fogwill said limited pipeline capacity and rising demand for Canadian crude at those refineriesÂ is oneÂ reason why rail shipments of oil to the United States have been on the rise.
Last fall, Canadian shipping constraints to the U.S. led to a backlog of oil andÂ steep discounts on Alberta crude. Prices increased significantlyÂ when the province imposed mandatory crude production cuts for 2019.
The heavy blend of oil from Alberta’sÂ oilsandsÂ known as Western Canada Select was trading at $43.47 US a barrelÂ on Thursday, up $1.36 US on anticipation that any decline in Venezuelan crude would result inÂ more demand for WCS.
RoryÂ Johnston, a commodity economist at Scotiabank, said the Canadian heavy crude price could further improve depending on whether the U.S. moves forward with sanctions and what happens with Venezuelan production.
“But I think at this stage it’s fairly unambiguously bullish for oil prices in the short term,” he said.
RobertÂ Fitzmartyn,Â head of energy institutional research at GMPÂ FirstEnergy,Â saidÂ he’ll be watching to see how any related improvement in crude prices filters into the market and Canadian energy stocks.
“The stock market probably responds mildly,” FitzmartynÂ said.
Longer term,Â however, there are even more questions.
If there is regime change in Venezuela, oil production couldÂ rampÂ up to more traditional levels and that might come to weigh on oil prices, Johnston said.
“What that likely would mean is actually a slightly more bearish outlook longer term,” he said.
“Production has been declining so rapidly there [in Venezuela] that really, at this stage, virtually anyÂ alternative governance is likely to be better at managing that production.”Â
Fogwill said that if Venezuelan production returns to traditional levels, it will have an impact on world prices, too.
“If Venezuela came roaring back … that could undermine the high price for oil.”Â
Article source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/venezuela-canada-oil-1.4990423?cmp=rss