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77 Percent Rise In Oil Prices Here

Prices for oil around the world have been stabilizing recently, but the heavy oil from Alberta, called Western Canada Select (WCS), is positively booming by comparison.

WCS accounts for most of the oil produced in Canada. It’s a thick , heavy crude that comes from Alberta’s vast fields of oil sands. The price for a barrel of this heavy oil was US$29.71 on March 17. By May 6 the price had soared more than 77 percent to $52.63.

That’s twice the rise in the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the benchmark oil of its neighbor, the United States, over the same period. And it’s nearly triple the increase in the price of Brent crude from the North Sea, which serves as the benchmark oil price for the rest of the world.

Related: Here Is Why Predictions For Lower Oil Prices Are Wrong

There are several reasons for this price jump, which include: a seasonal rise in demand by motorists who are driving more, especially after the harsh winter experienced in much of North America; and the fact that more Canadian oil is being delivered to refineries because of a rise in rail shipments and greater capacity in the continent’s pipelines.

The primary reason, though, is oil sands producers have made significant investments in domestic refining capacity. And that investment is paying off, at least for now.

Related: Alberta Election Result Changes Little For Oil Industry

After the worldwide recession ended in 2009, Canada’s heavy oil cost $40 less per barrel than WTI, mostly because of the country’s small refining capacity. As a result it had to be shipped south to the United States for refining. And because the oil was so heavy, it was more expensive to refine. Together, these factors kept the price of WCS low.

But during the past few years, the North American oil industry has invested in refineries capable of accommodating heavier oil, and WCS now is easier to process, making it more valuable. The price difference between WTI and WCS has now shrunk from $40 per barrel five years ago to less than $10 today.

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Add to that an increase in the number of pipelines, which link more oil fields with more refineries, thereby maintaining a copious flow of oil. Further, many older pipelines have been upgraded, so they can now pump oil in more than one direction, helping to maintain a proper balance between the supply of oil and the demand for it.

Michael Ervin, a gasoline analyst, told CBC News that one example of how effective the pipeline investments have been is “the increased export capacity” of the Flanagan South pipeline, opened in late December, which can move heavy Canadian crude from Alberta to Cushing, Okla., North America’s oil hub and therefore the gateway for getting oil on the world market.

And that’s just one pipeline payoff. Canada’s Enbridge Inc. says its conduits are moving about 300,000 more barrels of oil per day in the current quarter than it did in the same period of 2014. Jackie Forrest, an oil analyst with ARC Financial in Calgary, gives this understated summary to CBC: “The pipelines have provided more export capacity, and that’s been helpful in pricing.”

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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  • Karl Yong on May 14 2015 said:
    China had built a mega hydro-dam and multiple nuclear power stations. The fact of the matter, China is still very hungry for power, Electrical power more specifically. For years , China is balancing act between energy to fuel it's continuous economical growth or providing for it's people.

    China had sourced relentlessly for oil suppliers for decades. As in the past, it is not merely one has the money to buy, the West and Japan have secured the sources. With this oversupply situation, suppliers love Beijing. Saudi, Russia and others all leaving after " productive" meetings. The oil supply landscape is changing, certainly favoring China, serious doubt on the claim of oversupply is accurate.

    Look carefully into China and it's surrounding countries, the biggest factory in the world is still very hungry for oil. China has become Russia new best friend, soon the traditional allies of the west and other oil sources will more than be happy to have a long an productive relationship with China.
  • Doogie on May 14 2015 said:
    The US president is good at driving allies and friends away from old alliances. Our former friends mistrust him and our adversaries do not fear him.
  • Mike Dedmonton on May 14 2015 said:
    That extra oil went into strategic reserves.

    There are indications that China needs more electrical, but want to move away from coal. They are looking at nuclear, solar and I know not what else.
  • Karl Yong on May 14 2015 said:
    Have BBC look at the impact on the recent low oil price? While everyone is shouting over supplied, China had became the world biggest importer of oil, over USA. Thanks to the western media, at a huge discount. Over a month, March and April this year, China had imported 500,000 more barrels.
    The focus of oil demand had primary only about US demand, while a larger giant is growing behind the scene. If BBC or any media look at it carefully, at the present oil price, thank to US hedge funds short selling, China is the only country benefitting both in term of supply and politically. Russia was pushed to become China new best friend, while tradition allies like Saudi are avoiding meeting with US president but having "productive" meeting in Beijing.
    China continuous growth is only limited by one key factor, Energy. Even till today there are maximum limit whereby energy are supplied to factories. No street light in smaller town. and energy saving programs in second tier cities. In certain season, factories have to run their generators 2 to 3 days in a week. This is merely China, not including other fast developing countries in that region. Anyone in the west actually take a careful look before shouting oversupply?!

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