Suncor Fort Hills and CNRL Horizon Phase 3 are two major mining projects scheduled to open in 2017. Expansion of the oil sands and the construction of new pipelines should increase exports to international markets by an average of 3.1% a year over the next decade. By the end of 2018, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude is expected to rise to almost $60 (U.S.). The Conference Board of Canada, a non-profit research organization, predicts that bitumen or non-conventional oil production will climb from 2.4 to 4 million barrels per day between 2015 and 2040.
The organization also predicts that non-conventional oil will account for 86% of all crude oil produced in Alberta by then. The Conference Board argues that conventional oil reserves are now being found in harder-to-access areas, which means that production happens at a lower rate and is more expensive.
The difficulty of finding markets for natural gas south of the border will mean that it will have to be used somewhere else — probably as an energy source for oil sands production. In the long-term, natural gas production will drop from its current level of 10 billion to 9.3 billion cubic feet per day by 2040.
Some of the natural gas may also be used in electricity production. This would be part of the provincial government’s commitment to phasing out coal-fired electricity pollution by 2030.