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Canadian Oil Sands in Play


For this resource, it may be worth getting your hands dirty.


Yesterday, privately held Athabasca Oil Sands Corp., AOSC, announced that it was selling a 60% working interest in its MacKay River and Dover oil sands projects for a consideration of C$1.9 billion. The buyer is PetroChina International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PetroChina, aka China.

The projects are located in the center of the Athabasca area in northeastern Alberta and have been independently assessed to contain about five billion barrels of best-case contingent bitumen resource.

"Oil sands projects are very capital-intensive long-term investments and difficult to fully finance in the traditional equity market," said AOSC Chairman Bill Gallacher. "AOSC therefore decided to look for joint venture partners, and these strategic joint venture arrangements with PetroChina, one of the world's largest energy companies, can ensure that the MacKay River and Dover projects will be developed in a timely manner, which is excellent news for Alberta and the rest of Canada."

EnerVest Energy and Oil Sands Total Return Trust (EOS-UN.TO) held Athabasca Oil Sands Warrants valued at C$2,012,500 (18.78% of the trust's net assets) as of June 30th.

This news created positive interest in other early stage oil sands companies including:

  • UTS Energy Corporation (UTS.TO)
  • Opti Canada (OPC.TO)
  • Alberta Oil Sands (AOS.V)

Watch the above companies along with Oilsands Quest (BQI) to see if PetroChina's purchase can lead to a renewed speculative interest in junior oil sands companies.

While it has been fashionable to label the oil sands as "dirty oil," they remain a valuable Canadian resource.

Planning on the Northern Gateway Pipeline is underway; the 1,150-kilometer line could ship 400,000 barrels of oil sands-derived crude a day to Kitimat, a Canadian west coast port. The oil would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to Pacific Rim customers. Project costs were estimated at C$4.2 billion in 2008.

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