Canadian oil sands producers shouldn't fret about the shale oil revolution unfolding south of the border. The Bank of Canada predicts their product will still be swooned over.
Since the shale oil supply started to skyrocket five years ago, soaring to three million barrels per day, there has been a growing fear that Canada's heavy oil will be run out of favour because it is much more labour-and-capital-intensive to produce.
The fears are only amplified by the concerns that the Keystone XL pipeline won't be built, leaving the oil sands producers with few ways to transport their crude to U.S. refineries.
Don't stress, the Bank of Canada argues in its latest Monetary Policy Report. Because the shale revolution is a relatively new phenomenon, the energy industry, as a whole, still caters to the oil sands.
"A large proportion of the existing refining capacity in the United States is currently configured for heavy oil, thus supporting demand for Canadian crude," the Bank of Canada wrote.
"While the shale revolution will exert downward pressure on global oil prices, the impact, on its own, should not be large enough to cause a significant delay in the development of the oil sector in Canada," the central bank noted. "Since shale oil is often as expensive to produce as oil from the Canadian oil sands, only the most marginal and costly Canadian projects would be affected."
Even Canada's light oil exports are sitting rather pretty. Although they compete with U.S. shale oil, which is also light, "a sizeable share of the expected growth in U.S. shale oil production consists of ultra-light "condensate," which cannot be used directly to replace Canadian light oil exports," the Bank of Canada stated.
In fact, greater condensate supply can actually help the oil sands, because condensate is used to dilute heavy crude before it is shipped via pipelines or rail.
However, the Bank of Canada isn't naïve, and acknowledges that Canadian heavy oil isn't risk-free. "There is a risk that, as a result of export restrictions and inadequate infrastructure, a potential glut in the supply of light crude oil in the United States could provide price incentives for refineries to idle their heavy oil processing units."