Oil sands developers are feeling the pressure. After an explosion of tight oil plays in places like the highly coveted Bakken formation, the big Alberta-based giants are suddenly no longer the best great hope for future North American oil production.
The result: "oil-on-oil competition," said Laricina chief executive officer Glen Schmidt. The tight oil plays are fighting for development cash, while early-stage oil sands companies are trying to prove that they are still worthy of investment.
Tight oil employs many of the same techniques used in shale gas production, such as horizontal drilling, to extract crude from the ground. Until recently, these techniques weren't fully developed, so the crude reserves couldn't be tapped. (You can read up on it here.)
The topic came up in Mr. Schmidt's speech at Peters & Co.'s energy conference on Tuesday. To be clear, he didn't knock tight oil plays. But he did stand up for his ilk, saying that "the full assessment of tight oil will be [determined] over time."
At the moment, everyone's tongues are wagging about the prospects for tight oil, but Mr. Schmidt says that the expectations need to be "tempered, similar to oil sands and deep water Brazil, by an assessment of both above ground and reservoir risk."
An example of problems that could crop up: tight oil developers are all competing for capital, and it's highly unlikely that all of them will get what they need to develop their resource estimates.
To counter the hype, Mr. Schmidt stressed that "the long life of [the] oil sands provides option value on the long-dated value of crude."
The CEO also gave a brief update on his company's development. Laricina expects to have 42,500 barrels on stream by 2015, and is currently hard at work developing its Germain and Saleski projects, the latter of which is already producing.
To date, $1.3-billion has been invested in Laricina, and the company has seen $200-million in grey market trading.