Seeing as how it will be January when this column is published, I hope you have had a wonderful holiday and are beginning to crank things up for the busy season. I also hope (and expect) that most seismic crews in Canada are working and will stay busy at least until spring breakup.
2010 is closing with business indicators looking pretty fair. Oil prices closed today at $89.46, natural gas was at $4.21, and the Canadian dollar was trading for 98 US cents. From my perspective the oil price is great, the exchange rate is not good, and the gas price is mediocre.
The 2012 strip prices are $91 for oil and $4.92 for gas, which means that the brokers are expecting things to remain much the same for the next year. Betting on future energy prices is risky business. At this time last year oil was selling for $73 and was expected to hit $83 by 2012. A year ago gas was at $5.70 and was expected to be $6.50 in 2012. I’m getting these numbers off the PSAC website, and while I’m sure they are doing their best, they seem no more accurate than the weatherman. A year ago, if you had bet on their oil price forecast, you would now be in the money, but if you had bet on their gas price forecast, you would be losing money. Yup, it’s like predicting the weather, and with gas prices, they really are trying to predict the weather.
This past week the NEB outlined the terms under which they will permit the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. Not that I’ve read the NEB ruling, but I’ve heard that their 260 odd conditions are not much more difficult than business as usual. Apparently, if the pipeline plan proceeds, first gas will be delivered in 2018. The pipeline will cost $16 billion and whoever is investing that kind of money has the best possible price forecasters on staff.
It’s exciting to think about mineral rights on the lands that will be available once the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is a reality. The pipeline will be 1200km long. Think about it. If exploring a 20km wide fairway either side of the pipeline makes economic sense, then 48,000 Sq. Km. of new lands will need to be explored. This is a lot of land; Alberta totals about 650,000 Sq. Km., while the size of Nova Scotia is 55,000 Sq. Km. By my wild guess here, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline could open up an area nearly the size of Nova Scotia for exploration. It’s a big undeveloped area. Exploring these new lands will be hard work; the river is the road in the Mackenzie Valley. There is no highway along most of the route. Bush planes and river boats are needed to get around. I’m dreaming here, and might soon start quoting Robert Service, but I hope that in 2018 when the pipeline produces its first gas, many of us CSEG members will be working with fresh new seismic data from the Mackenzie Valley.
I’ll close by mentioning the recent meeting of the Past Presidents Advisory Council and the subsequent Past President Luncheon. The theme is that Jon Downtown, Larry Herd, and I ask advice from our predecessors. And, good advice we received. We were given guidance on budgeting and how to manage our surplus as well as reassurance that today’s challenges are not unique, everything has been seen before.
What really made the day was the conversation. I spoke with very interesting people. There were old friends, people I’ve known for years, and there were even a few people I met for the first time. For instance; there was Bill Evans, who organized the first joint EG/PG convention in 1977, and Valerie Nielsen, who commissioned Bill Finch to write “Traces through time”, the history of the first 25 years of the CSEG. I even met Larry Fichtner who grew up in my hometown of Prince George. Strangely, Larry looks younger than I do, but he left for UBC when I was just three years old.
It’s the thought of another New Year beginning that has me daydreaming with this month’s column. This month the CSEG facts are available in Larry Herd’s column. Larry’s written a good summary of current activities so be sure to check it out.