Statoil looks at ‘different options’ in Western Canada after selling oil sands assets

Statoil ASA says it is scouting for new investment opportunities in Western Canada after selling off its oil sands assets.

“There are great resources in the Montney and Duvernay, but we’re looking at various different options at the moment,” said Paul Fulton, president of Statoil Canada, referring to active natural gas and oil plays in British Columbia and Alberta, but without revealing further details.

“Almost certainly not in the oil sands: We’ve now exited from that business.”

The Norwegian energy giant closed the cash and shares sale of its oil sands business to Canada’s Athabasca Oil Corp. in January. For a price likely to go to more than $800-million, inclusive of a series of contingent value payments, Athabasca acquired Statoil’s Leismer steam-driven project, as well as an undeveloped lease called Corner.

The Statoil sale announced before Christmas last year was the beginning of a $30-billion-plus selloff of oil sands assets by foreign firms, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc. and ConocoPhillips Co.

The movement spurred by low crude prices, high global supplies, and more attractive investment opportunities in other parts of the world, including the U.S. But Alberta continues to debate what role limited pipeline access to key refinery markets, or the implementation of a carbon tax in the province this year, played in the international exits.

For his part, Mr. Fulton said the company’s decision to sell its bitumen assets was not based on politics, and Statoil continues to support carbon pricing.

“We actually support what both the federal and provincial governments are doing on trying to get a policy on carbon pricing – and we support carbon pricing globally, even if that is a cost on our business,” he said during a panel discussion at Calgary’s Global Petroleum Show on Wednesday.

Statoil’s Canadian president made his remarks as he spoke on a panel about the transformation of the oil and gas industry, his company’s push to lower upstream emissions and invest in renewables, and a new focus “on value more than volume.”

He also noted that as Statoil left the oil sands business, it also exited the Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) – a technology sharing alliance among oil sands producers that focuses on environmental performance improvements, and a main plank in the industry’s push to improve its environmental reputation.

Mr. Fulton said the company’s Canadian operations are now focused on offshore assets in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“But it’s challenging out there,” he added. “We’re continuing to look for more exploration and more discoveries in that part of the world.”

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @KellyCryderman