James Stafford: More Canadian oil is now being marketed by rail. Can you put the rail versus pipeline transport comparisons into perspective for us from a Canadian operating perspective?
Chris Cooper: A lot of companies, including Aroway, are capitalizing on the benefits of moving their oil via rail as opposed to pipeline. I think it will increase our netback, our profit per barrel, by several dollars immediately.
For instance, before we purchased our West Hazel Property in Skaskatchewan, the owners would truck to Talisman or another big operator that was pipeline-connected. Then, once the oil got to the pipeline-connected operator, they had to pay a certain amount of money to get it in the pipeline for diluents to meet pipeline specifications. Then they had to pay for the pipeline tariff and then they got the price the pipeline operator provided wherever they were on the pipeline.
So for example, the last month we got $53 to $54 a barrel, after the blend-in tariff for our West Hazel production, which is probably the lowest you’re going to see for a long time. Our netback on that oil was still greater than $20 a barrel. But for that $53.32 a barrel we sold, if transported by rail, we remove the pipeline tariff, we remove the blend for the diluents and we get $9 more added to the netback value. (Related Article: Can Leak Detection End the Pipeline Impasse? Interview with Adrian Banica)
So what we’ll end up doing is trucking our oil from the field to a company called Altex Energy, which is partly owned by Shell Canada. Shell owns all the railway cars and all these railway cars get filled up with heavy crude and shipped down to their Port Arthur facility on the Gulf Coast. At Port Arthur what typically happens to our crude--because it’s somewhere between 11 and 13 degree oil—is it goes straight into bunker fuel for ships.