Energy projects like an LNG Canada export terminal and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion may face short-term setbacks but the pandemic and oil price crash shouldn’t threaten their long-term viability, economists say.
Andrew Leach, an energy economist at the University of Alberta, said the long-term forecast for both natural gas and oil remains steady, even as some companies scale back workforces to meet safety protocols.
“I think the consensus amongst most people is that there isn’t a big impact of what we’re seeing right now beyond the timeline of the pandemic and the recovery,” he said.
Global oil prices recently plunged amid oversupply concerns as storage tanks near capacity while refineries are reducing output as economic activity slows during the pandemic. The low prices have forced some producers to cut production in Canada’s oilpatch.
Werner Antweiler, an energy economist at the University of British Columbia, said the oil industry is facing a “double whammy” of a global decrease in demand coupled with a Saudi Arabia-Russia price war. A recent agreement by OPEC and other countries to reduce production doesn’t go far enough to balance supply with falling demand, he said.
But pipelines face slightly different market forces than the producers who fill them. There may be increased pressure on pipelines as Canadian producers seek to get oil to markets at the best price possible, while the spectre of American protectionism could also increase the pressure to get Canadian oil to Asian refineries if U.S. ones becomes unavailable, Antweiler said.
Trans Mountain said in a statement that construction on the expansion project is progressing well at its terminals and along the right-of-way in B.C. and Alberta with COVID-19 safety measures in place.
Current oil prices don’t have a direct impact on the project, the company said. Its customers have made 15- and 20-year commitments for roughly 80 per cent of the capacity in the expanded pipeline. It’s still due to come into service in late 2022, the statement said.
The existing Trans Mountain pipeline operated at its maximum capacity for the first quarter of 2020, the company said.
LNG Canada has reduced its workforce to manage the risk of spreading COVID-19, director of corporate affairs Susannah Pierce said in a statement. But the company and its engineering procurement and construction contractor, JGC Fluor JV, continue to hit “critical construction milestones,” she said.
Antweiler said liquefied natural gas has a good long-term outlook because of the ongoing switch from coal to gas globally and the increase in demand for energy in Asia.
“These two things, they will continue once the economy returns to normal.”
In the case of Coastal GasLink, the 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline that would feed LNG Canada’s export terminal on the B.C. coast, the pandemic may never rival the disruption earlier this year by its opponents, Leach said.
Construction on most projects that are underway could be vulnerable to disruptions caused by outbreaks but otherwise appear to be continuing at status quo. Leach biked through a Trans Mountain construction zone in Edmonton on Thursday and it seemed unchanged, he said.
“It feels like it’s going full speed ahead,” he said.
A pipeline like Trans Mountain, which is regulated by the Canadian Energy Regulator, is not a commercial venture in the sense that it doesn’t take full merchant risk and has bounds on the tolls it can charge. It’s also largely able to pass any extra costs on to producers, Leach said.
“They can’t charge whatever the market will bear at any point of time and as a consequence of that they also have some protection for their capital investments,” Leach said.
The wildcard project is Keystone XL for several reasons, including that it doesn’t have all its permits and is not materially under construction, he said.
“It’s relatively early in the process and the cross-border nature of it, the length of it, all these sorts of things make it more challenging in the current market. So that’s probably one of the projects that is most likely to be affected,” Leach said.
TC Energy, which owns the project, did not respond to a request for comment.
While some have mused that the oil price plunge signalled the beginning of the end for oil, Leach and Antweiler don’t buy it.
It would take broad public policy shifts or an energy technology revolution to stimulate a mass shift away from oil dependency. If anything, Leach said physical distancing habits could discourage drivers from making the switch to public transit, for example.
“I’d love to see the oil industry fade away more quickly than it will, but as an energy economist I still know we depend on oil for transportation,” Antweiler said.
He said he expects demand for oil to remain stable for the next few years and it will be up to countries around the world to curb demand through policy until cleaner options become more cost effective.
“There will be potentially a reduction in demand for oil but it won’t be as fast as some hope,” he said.
Google in $5bn lawsuit for tracking in 'private' mode – BBC News
Google has been sued in the US over claims it illegally invades the privacy of users by tracking people even when they are browsing in “private mode”.
The class action wants at least $5bn (£4bn) from Google and owner Alphabet.
Many internet users assume their search history isn’t being tracked when they view in private mode, but Google says this isn’t the case.
The search engine denies this is illegal and says it is upfront about the data it collects in this mode.
The proposed class action likely includes “millions” of Google users who since 1 June 2016 browsed the internet in private mode according to law firm Boies Schiller Flexner who filed the claim on Tuesday in federal court in San Jose, California.
Incognito mode within Google’s Chrome browser gives users the choice to search the internet without their activity being saved to the browser or device. But the websites visited can use tools such as Google Analytics to track usage.
The complaint says that Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone”.
Vigorously denying the claims Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said: “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity”.
The search engine says the collection of search history, even in private viewing mode, helps site owners “better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing and more.”
While private browsing has been available from Google for some time, Boies Schiller Flexner said it recently decided to represent three plaintiffs based in the US.
“People everywhere are becoming more aware (and concerned) that their personal communications are being intercepted, collected, recorded, or exploited for gain by technology companies they have come to depend on,” it said in the filing.
One option is for visitors to install Google Analytics browser opt-out extension to disable measurement by Google Analytics, it says.
Google is sued in US for tracking users' 'private' internet browsing – The Jerusalem Post
Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode.The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said.Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said the Mountain View, California-based company will defend itself vigorously against the claims.”As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,” he said.While users may view private browsing as a safe haven from watchful eyes, computer security researchers have long raised concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet in “private” mode.It seeks at least $5,000 of damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.Boies Schiller & Flexner represents the plaintiffs Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen and William Byatt.
Huawei Snubbed by Canadian Firms Ahead of Trudeau’s Crucial 5G Call – Yahoo Finance
(Bloomberg) — Two major Canadian wireless companies said they will build out their next-generation 5G wireless networks with equipment from European providers, sidelining China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
Montreal-based BCE Inc. said that Ericsson AB will provide the radio access network equipment — the critical antennas and base stations — for its 5G network. Telus Corp. said in a separate statement that it has selected Ericsson and Nokia Oyj “to support building” its network, without elaborating.
Those announcements come ahead of a closely watched — and long overdue — decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whether to ban Huawei from participating in the nation’s 5G infrastructure amid deeply troubled relations with Beijing. Huawei previously played a large role in Canadian wireless networks but has faced growing national security concerns from Western governments.
BCE would still consider working with Huawei if the government allows their participation in 5G, the Canadian company said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The Trump administration has lobbied allies to ban Huawei 5G, saying its equipment would make networks vulnerable to exploitation by the Chinese government. Despite that, the U.K. said in January it would allow Huawei a limited role. In recent days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has backtracked, saying it seeks to reduce reliance on the company’s technology and on China.
Telus and BCE awarded Huawei its first major project in North America in 2008 — a pivotal contract that helped cement the Chinese provider’s reputation as a global player that could compete on quality. The deal paved the way for it to become a major supplier to all three of Canada’s biggest telecom companies over the next decade.
Stalling in Ottawa
The Telus announcement comes as a particular surprise after Chief Financial Officer Doug French told the National Post in February that “we’re going to launch 5G with Huawei out of the gate” by the end of the year.
Telus spokeswoman Donna Ramirez didn’t immediately respond to a question on whether the company’s announcement still leaves room for Huawei to participate in its 5G rollout. Huawei said in an emailed statement it looks forward to the federal government completing its 5G review and making an evidence-based decision about its role in helping build Canada’s next-generation wireless networks.
Trudeau has stalled on whether to ban Huawei. Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. handover request in late 2018. After her arrest, China put two Canadian citizens in jail, halted billions of dollars in Canadian imports and put two other Canadians on death row.
The extradition proceedings against Meng, the eldest daughter of the company’s billionaire founder, have pushed Canada’s relationship with its second-biggest trading partner into its worst state in decades. Beijing has accused Canada of abetting a U.S.-led “political persecution” against a national champion.
(Updates eighth paragraph with statement from Huawei)
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