Oct. 11 (UPI) -- A trade group in the Canadian oil and gas sector said the nation could be the "energy supplier of choice" if governments get serious about development.
"The upstream oil and natural gas sector can meet world energy demands as long as we can access new customers, manage our costs and maintain investment in our sector," Tim McMillan, the president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a statement.
Alberta, the central oil and gas producer in the country, saw its economy come under pressure last year from the dual strains of lower crude oil prices and wildfires that swept through the heart of the provincial oil sector. About 1 million barrels of oil per day were sidelined by fires in the Fort McMurray region last year.
The provincial government forecast growth in terms of gross domestic product for 2017 at 3.1 percent, up from the budget forecast of 2.65 percent. With a push for diversification under way, non-energy exports were up 7.1 percent in the first half of the year. Alberta's government, however, is expecting less revenue, higher unemployment and higher total expenses.
McMillan's group said the Canadian oil and gas sector was second only to real estate in terms of the contribution to the nation's economy. By CAPP's estimate, oil and gas supports 600,000 jobs across Canada and generates $90 billion in gross domestic product.
The Canadian government estimates total crude oil and equivalent production at around 4.1 million barrels per day for 2017. That would make Canada the third largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, behind Iraq, if it were a member.
Nearly all of the oil that Canada exports heads to the U.S. market and existing pipeline infrastructure means Canada is relatively landlocked to North America. Pipeline company Kinder Morgan has approval to triple the capacity for its Trans Mountain pipeline to British Colombia, though progress is slowed by a long regulatory process and objections from some western Canadian leaders. TransCanada recently gave up on an eastbound pipeline amid federal environmental concerns.
After TransCanada pulled its Energy East pipeline from consideration, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said federal regulators lacked direction on pipeline projects in the country, leaving Canada sidelined from the world market as a result.
CAPP's report said Canada can be a world energy leader, but only if governments choose to adopt policies that attract the right investments.
Western Canadian Select, the Canadian benchmark for the price of oil, was priced near $40 per barrel early Wednesday. Brent, the global benchmark, was priced at around $56.50 per barrel.