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Why Canada’s highest-carbon oil sands sites keep pumping

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In the shadow of Canada’s mega oil sands projects, smaller, technologically outdated facilities produce up to three times more emissions per barrel than the already high sector average- and rising oil prices have given them a new lease of life.

These projects present another challenge to Canada’s goal to cut emissions by 40-45% by 2030. With oil prices near 2-1/2-year highs and dim prospects for building new projects in a world heading toward net zero emissions, operators are aiming to pump as much as they can from existing facilities – including from the most carbon-intense sites.

Eventually, rising carbon prices may render the projects uneconomical. For now, however, producers are cashing in as they seek to repair their balance sheets from the damage inflicted by the coronavirus.

“These assets are flying under the regulatory radar and they might for awhile,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at shareholder advisory group Ceres.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s government is slowly ramping up a national carbon price from C$40 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to C$170 by 2030.

For oil producers to make decisions in line with government targets, authorities would need to accelerate the move to higher carbon prices or impose other taxes on high-emissions facilities, Logan said.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd’s (CNRL) Peace River site emits 0.197 tonnes of CO2e per barrel, the highest in the oil sands, according to 2019 Alberta government data. Peace River, which has pumped oil since the late 1970s, expects to double output to 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the fourth quarter.

“In the price environment we’re in now, areas like Peace River would be good operating properties in terms of cash flow,” said CNRL Chief Operating Officer Scott Stauth, adding it could operate for decades more.

Increasing production would reduce carbon intensity, he said. Raising output spreads total emissions from a facility over a higher number of barrels of oil.

GRAPHIC: Canada oil sands highest carbon per barrel – https://graphics.reuters.com/GLOBAL-OIL/CANADA/yxmpjabxzvr/chart.png

CNRL is piloting technology to use less steam to extract oil at larger sites, and once commercially proven, hopes to apply that technology to Peace River, Stauth said. That would reduce the natural gas burned to produce steam, a process that is one of the main sources of emissions in the oil sands industry.

Canada has the highest emissions per barrel of oil equivalent among the top 10 global producers, according to consultancy Rystad Energy.

Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the government has addressed some concerns about high-intensity sites, with measures such as tighter methane regulations and an incoming standard for lower-carbon fuels, but added it needed to do more.

Alberta regulations provide the same incentive for producers to cut emissions, regardless of their carbon intensity, rather than an approach which directly pressures operators to close the high-emissions facilities first, said Paul Hamnett, spokesperson for the provincial environment minister.

For producers, the cost of reducing emissions is higher than the carbon price, and operating costs are low, making it worthwhile to keep running the sites, said Chris Severson-Baker, Alberta regional director for the Pembina Institute.

Greenfire Acquisition Corp, which owns the second-highest carbon-intensity facility, is looking to double production at Hangingstone in the next few months to up to 7,500 bpd, Chief Executive Robert Logan said.

Logan said emissions intensity at Hangingstone is high because of starts and stops in production, which consume more energy. But he said keeping facilities running as long as possible makes environmental sense, since exploring and drilling new properties generate additional emissions.

When the price of carbon reaches the point that the facilities are no longer profitable, they may shut, he said.

“We’re going to be leaving a lot of oil in the ground from very good wells,” Logan added.

Imperial Oil’s Cold Lake has operated for 45 years and is one of the few large sites with relatively high carbon intensity.

Imperial produces 11,000 bpd with solvents to reduce steam use and plans to add another 15,000 bpd in the next few years – converting about 19% of its total thermal production to lower-emitting output, said Senior Vice-President of upstream, Simon Younger.

Cenovus Energy, which owns two carbon-intense sites, Tucker and Sunrise, plans to reduce their reliance on steam, after it acquired them this year, said Chief Executive Alex Pourbaix.

“People are going to be very pleasantly surprised at how significantly we can improve the performance of those facilities.”

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Simon Webb and Marguerita Choy)

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Robinhood Flirts With Worst Debut Ever for IPO of Its Size – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Robinhood Markets Inc. wanted to make history with its initial public offering, and now it might — for the wrong reason.

Shares in the broker behind the meme-stock revolution fell as much as 12% below the IPO price in the company’s first trading session. That puts the stock in the running to rank as the worst debut on record among U.S. firms that raised as much cash as Robinhood or more, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Shares rebounded and were last trading 1% lower at $37.52 mid-afternoon in New York.

Robinhood must finish Thursday’s session at $34.90 or higher, or else it will replace the 2007 IPO by another brokerage, MF Global Holdings Ltd., as the worst debut among qualifying firms. MF Global ended its first day down 8.2%.

Read more: Robinhood Loses More Ground in Trading Debut After Muted IPO

The stock opened at the $38 initial public offering price. For an IPO of Robinhood’s size and larger, that’s the weakest opening trade since Uber Technologies Inc. in May of 2019 among U.S. firms. Uber finished its debut session down 7.6%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Google and Facebook will require U.S. workers to be vaccinated to return to the office – CBC.ca

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Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

The more highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Google’s announcement Wednesday was shortly followed by one from Facebook, which also said it will make vaccines mandatory for U.S. employees who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons.

“With regards to our Canadian offices, we don’t have specifics to share yet,” a spokesperson for Facebook told CBC News. “We will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves.”

In an email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning Oct. 18, instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1.

The decision also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote.

Pichai disclosed that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and other U.S. offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

‘The stuff that needs to be done’

Google has extensive operations in Canada, but the company did not immediately reply to a request for comment as to when such a policy may be implemented for its Canadian work force. Pichai’s letter, however, makes it clear that it is not just a U.S. policy.

“We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” he said.

WATCH | How social media is helping spread misinformation like a virus:

U.S. officials say misinformation has plagued the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and case counts across the country are rising. 2:02

Public health experts are lauding the move.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

“It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

Various government agencies already have announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated, but the corporate world so far has been taking a more measured approach, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.

Most employers hesitant to require vaccines

Delta and United airlines are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are requiring their employees to disclose their vaccination status, but are not requiring staffers to be vaccinated.

Less than 10 per cent of employers have said they intend to require all employees to be vaccinated, based on periodic surveys by the research firm Gartner.

Although the vaccination policy is only in effect in the U.S. for now, Google makes it clear it plans to expand it to other countries where it operates too. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

While other major technology companies may follow suit now that Google and Facebook have taken stands on vaccines, employers in other industries still may be reluctant, predicted Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s human resources practice.

“Google is seen as being such a different kind of company that I think it’s going to take one or two more big employers to do something similar in terms of becoming a game changer,” Kropp said.

Google’s vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulations of each location, Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai explained.

The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine skepticism and misinformation.

It’s unclear how many of Google’s workers still haven’t been vaccinated. In his email, Pichai described the vaccination rate at the company as high.

Remote work still going strong

Google’s decision to extend its remote work follows a similar move by another technology powerhouse, Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October, too.

The delays by Apple and Google could influence other major employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home.

WATCH | Business travel particularly slow to bounce back:

A recent study from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicts that business travel won’t return to pre-pandemic levels for years. Many companies and business travellers are finding that they can cut costs by switching to virtual events and meetings, which could hurt businesses which rely on corporate travel. 1:59

This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Google’s vaccine requirement also could embolden other employers to issue similar mandates to guard against outbreaks and minimize the need to wear masks in the office.

While most companies are planning to bring back their workers at least a few days a week, others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.

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TSX closes at all-time high, U.S. markets up after big jump in commodities prices – CBC.ca

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Canada’s main stock exchange closed at an all-time high as commodities like gold and oil benefited from a weaker U.S. dollar on Thursday.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 81.38 points at 20,311.78.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 153.60 points at 35,084.53. The S&P 500 index was up 18.51 points at 4,419.15, while the Nasdaq composite was up 15.68 points at 14,778.26.

The Canadian dollar traded for 80.32 cents US compared with 79.58 cents US on Wednesday.

The September crude oil contract was up $1.23 US at $73.62 US per barrel and the September natural gas contract was up 9.2 cents at nearly $4.06 US per mmBTU.

The December gold contract was up $31.20 US at $1,835.80 US an ounce and the September copper contract was up nearly 4.2 cents at $4.52 US a pound.

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