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Energy and Resources Alberta’s oil and gas land sales revenue takes a beating

An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary, Alta., in July, 2014.

Todd Korol / Reuters

Alberta is on track to post its worst annual oil and gas land sales revenue in more than two decades. As of late August, auctions in which the province leases out land rights to energy companies have pulled in $209-million.

"It's absolutely the worst that we've seen the 21 years that I've been doing this," said Winston Gaskin, president of Standard Land Co., which assists companies in buying land rights.

In 2014, Alberta sold $494-million worth of energy land tenures, the lowest since 2002. Given the current pace of sales, Alberta could see its lowest land sales revenue since 1992, when it sold a paltry $149-million in land rights.

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That compares with a high-water mark of $3.5-billion in 2011 as excitement in the Duvernay shale formation drove up prices.

"Exploration budgets are the first things that get cut in times like these, so that impacts the sales," Mr. Gaskin said.

The sales are a reflection of energy prices, not Alberta's future energy potential, said Dan McFadyen, executive fellow at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, and former Alberta deputy energy minister. He also noted that companies are concerned about the provincial government's royalties review.

B.C., meanwhile, had sold only $8.5-million worth of petroleum and natural gas tenures as of mid-August, compared with $383-million in all of 2014 and a bumper year of $2.7-billion in 2008.

In Saskatchewan, the government had pulled in $35.7-million from exploration licences and leases as of mid-August, while last year it received $197.9-million.

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