Is Alberta entering its last oil boom?

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Experts believe Alberta is entering its last oil boom
WATCH ABOVE: With oil above $100 per barrel to start the year, Alberta is set to enter another oil boom but experts believe this will be the last. Breanna Karstens-Smith explains – Mar 4, 2022

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude hit $115 a barrel Friday, continuing a 2022 trend of high oil prices.

Oil country will most certainly benefit from the rates with the Alberta government seeing a surplus for the first time in eight years, in part because of the prices.

But as the world pushes towards greener energy, experts predict the benefits won’t last long.

“The 2020s are literally the last oil boom for Alberta,” Energi Media journalist Markham Hislop told Global News.

He said the key is to capitalize if that is the case.

Hislop pointed to recommendations from Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consultancy firm.

It believes companies should take the price perks and invest in low-carbon initiatives.

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“Alberta needs to get its act together and get a credible climate plan,” Hislop said. “And then on top of that, it needs to have — for the oil and gas industry — it needs to have a post-combustion strategy.”

The province has been through this before. Most recently, prices were over $100 per barrel in 2008 and 2014.

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At that time, Fort McMurray became known as Boomtown.

Back then, the highway to Fort McMurray was packed with pickup trucks going to and from oilsands sites, homes cost more than a million dollars and it seemed like every driveway had a massive motorhome on it.

Alberta central chief economist Charles St. Arnaud does not believe that will happen this time.

“It’s a great boom for the province, at least for the oil sector. Consumers, probably less.”

That’s because the previous booms saw companies invest in upgrades and expansions to produce more and cash in.

This time, experts say producers are keeping up with demand but putting the profits towards AI, automation and efficiencies.

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It’s an attempt to get off the energy roller-coaster.

“Now it’s about really taking a few other things in the future,” explained Perry Berkenpas, the executive director of the Oil Sands Community Alliance.

“Achieving net-zero ambitions, improving energy security for Canadians, still advancing technology and all of that still with the backdrop of an energy transition.”

With that in mind, Berkenpas said it’s actually not a bad thing that this boom could be Alberta’s last.

“Behind the boom is a bust,” he said. “I’m not sad about not necessarily having a boom that we can react to, but steady is our friend.”

Darrell Friesen doesn’t buy into the belief that an end is in sight.

The president of TAHK Projects Ltd. has worked in the oil and gas sector since 1979.

He believes there will still be a high demand for oil for at least another four decades.

With the world turning away from Russian oil because of its invasion of Ukraine, Friesen said more and more people will want Alberta oil.

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He said he is already seeing demand increase. Friesen expects to hire up to 400 additional workers this year.

The only problem is, there is a shortage of skilled workers so TAHK has had to get competitive.

“There’s everything from signing bonuses to one of the more common strategies in the industry (which) is to offer end-of-project bonuses,” Friesen explained.

He added that work is picking up in Grande Prairie, Edmonton and elsewhere in Alberta.

Friesen acknowledged this boom will not be as big as the more recent ones but is firm the province will continue to ride the roller-coaster.

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