Royalties remain the same for Alberta oilsands projects, says Notley

Alberta releases anticipated royalty review
WATCH ABOVE: After months of debate the Alberta government has released its royalty review. Alberta Provincial Affairs reporter Tom Vernon has the details.

CALGARY – Alberta’s NDP government is introducing an industry-friendly royalty system that won’t change the province’s take from oilsands projects.

The province’s royalty review panel did recommend, however, tweaks to the royalty framework for conventional oil and natural gas wells so that royalty rates better take into account the costs of drilling, instead of just production rates and commodity prices.

READ MORE: Alberta royalty review – reaction from politicians, energy industry

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A flat five per cent royalty rate will be applied on those wells until their revenues equal a cost allowance, after which rates will go up.

The province will determine in the coming months how those cost allowance numbers will be crunched. The panel, led by ATB Financial’s Dave Mowat, also says the system should be agnostic about what type of resource a well produces.

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The panel, led by ATB Financial boss Dave Mowat, also says the system should be agnostic about what type of resource is coming out of a well.

WATCH: Premier Rachel Notley announced the royalty review framework Friday morning in Calgary.

Today’s system– in which different rates apply to oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids– has been criticized as being too complex and making companies reluctant to explore because they don’t know what resource their drill bits will encounter.

The new system will take effect in 2017. Wells drilled prior to that will be subject to the existing rules for 10 years.

READ MORE: A look at Alberta’s current royalty regime

The panel’s recommendations have been accepted by the Alberta government.

“Our new royalty framework recognizes the reality of our economy today,” Premier Rachel Notley said in a speech Friday.

“It responds to the pain and the uncertainty that workers and families are feeling across our province. It is designed to encourage more investment and more jobs than we’d otherwise have.”

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The announcement comes as oil hovers around US$30 a barrel and industry players have warned the government against doing anything to worsen the pain.

The new system is on recommendations from the panel led by Mowat. Other panel members include energy economist Peter Tertzakian, Leona Hanson, mayor of Beaverlodge, Alta., and former Alberta deputy finance minister Annette Trimbee.

READ MORE: Royalty review won’t raise costs amid ‘unprecedented’ drop in oil, says Notley 

In 2007 — when oil was climbing toward US$90 a barrel — royalty changes introduced by the Progressive Conservative government caused big outcry among industry players.

Industry groups say they’ve been happy with how the panel’s consultations worked this time around and feel they’ve had a fair hearing.

READ MORE: Oil and gas industry braces for Alberta royalty review

For oilsands, the royalty rates structure will be unchanged, but the panel said there was room for changes. For instance, disputes between companies and governments over what costs can be deducted “generate uncertainty” and “breed cynicism.”

In a statement, three industry players praised the new framework, saying it provides certainty for their businesses.

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Kevin Neveu, CEO of Precision Drilling Corp. (TSX:PD), said it “ensures that Alberta remains a competitive jurisdiction.” Pat Carlson, CEO of Seven Generations Energy Ltd. (TSX:VII), called the report “thoughtful and comprehensive.”

Mowat said the focus of the panel was less on the rates charged to producers and more on how to make the system work better.


TIMELINE: Tracking the layoffs in Alberta’s oilpatch

The panel recommends further examination into ways to encourage more “value-added” processing in the province — making more lucrative products out of raw resources, like petrochemicals from natural gas liquids.

The framework aims to reward oil and gas drillers whose costs are better than average. A capital cost index will be calibrated every year, so that it reflects the latest business conditions.

Cost stemming from the province’s new climate change policy will be baked into the cost allowance.

Alberta’s Royalty Report

With files from Global News