Crude Observations

We’ve all seen this movie

Okay folks, this is it. I am officially stumped and torn this week. I don’t know what to write on. You see there are two themes rattling around in my head. First, it’s Super Bowl Weekend. My favourite chicken wing mainlining time of the year. And this year yet again we have a super-intriguing matchup. Sean McVay the boy genius coach facing off against the Sith Lord of the NFL, Bill Belichek. We have the young gunslinger in Jared Goff against the old man who just won’t quit and who is universally loathed pretty much anywhere outside of New England (although there is a case to be made that for this game only, all of Louisiana and good portions of Alabama will be rooting for him). Given this matchup, I could wax eloquent about the Super Bowl, the themes, all that jazz. Like I did last year. And I may still do that.


Except tomorrow is Groundhog Day (note to media – not “Groundhog’s Day”). And that is a fun day in and of itself and worthy of note. Who doesn’t love the sense of anticipation as overstuffed rodents across the continent poke their heads out of cages or holes and indicate to the huddled masses whether spring will be early or late, should they short natural gas or buy a new scarf. All that stuff. And in light of the super polar vortex deep freeze, some attention and prognostication  might be required.


And then of course there is Venezuela, a country which I have been writing about for the past several years around this time to point out the humanitarian disaster that seems to be continually unfolding there and getting worse by the day, as if it could get any worse.


Or Canada’s energy industry and pipelines! Propose one, approve one, oppose one, delay one. Lather, rinse, repeat.


All these things happening over and over. And never any progress. It’s almost like we are stuck living the same year/week/month/day over and over again. See where I’m going with this?


We are stuck in a real world version of the movie Groundhog Day. Except the star isn’t Bill Murray. It’s us. Don’t believe me? Below is an excerpt from a blog I wrote three years ago!!!


I have changed maybe 60 words and cleaned up some questionable grammar. It may as well have been written yesterday. And maybe it was since we are living the same day over and over.


Groundhog Day Revisited


“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”


Sound apropos?


For those unfamiliar with the movie, Groundhog Day tells the story of Phil Connors, the egomaniacal, self-absorbed TV weatherman trapped reporting from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day, who finds himself inexplicably repeating the same day over and over again no matter what he tries to do to alter his situation. Intertwined within this existential dilemma is salvation in the form of the love interest – the sweet and gentle Rita, and we all know that once Phil figures out how to win her over, it will be the perfect ending.


For my purposes here, Phil is alternatively the energy sector or Alberta, and Rita is of course the Rest of Canada – expanded to be the “rest of the world”.


Think about some of the doom and gloom that currently dominate the Canadian oil patch discussion: single market price-taker, environmental laggard, lack of market access… each of these seem to be running on an endless loop with no progress on any front.


Ultimately though, the one topic that seems to dominate is that of pipeline projects being proposed and pushed back. Whether it’s Coastal Gas Link and coastal tanker bans, TransMountain, First Nations and the BC government, Keystone XL and Obama appointed judges, Energy East and the Montreal shakedown, or newly announced changes to the NEB process (Bill C-69), it seems no matter what we do, pipelines can’t get a leg forward and move to the next step.


“Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?”

“I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.”


Much like many sector participants’ current views of our government and politicians, at the beginning of the film, Phil, secure in his superiority, looks down his nose at the traditions and needs of the quaint town of Punxsutawney.


“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”


Then as the same day repeats and the eternal recurrence deepens and becomes more absurd, his mood changes, his despair grows.


“You want a prediction about the weather, you’re asking the wrong Phil. I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”


When you think of it, the parallels are pretty interesting, from Stephen Harper’s “It’s a no-brainer” through the Keystone rejection to the current state of affairs. Even the quote above could be easily rewritten as an opinion piece from an analyst on the Canadian energy sector.


After Phil gets over the initial shock he blunders around trying to figure out how he will get out of his mess. He tries to have fun with it and overindulge. He rages, he gives up. He gets rich, he steals, he buys ridiculous amounts of insurance (Bing!) and steps in the same pothole seemingly every day.


He even kidnaps and kills the groundhog (“There is no way that this winter is *ever* going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”) and tries repeatedly to kill himself.


“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”


And all the while, much like Alberta attempts to court the Rest of Canada, he tries to hit the perfect stride with Rita, but he tries too hard to be his version of perfect, his efforts are contrived and he runs out of time at first and then with each subsequent reliving, he gets more anxious, becomes manic and ultimately pushes her further away.


Sounding familiar? This is a lot like the last few years or so of pipeline advocacy with supporters (outside of the actual pipeline proponents I might add) coming off as increasingly desperate and the whole social license strategy revealing itself as a fraud.


Phil Connors:     Who is your perfect guy?

Rita:       Well, first of all, he’s too humble to know he’s perfect.

Phil Connors:     That’s me!


But the attraction is really there – Rita actually needs Phil as much as he needs her, much as Canada needs Alberta, energy and pipelines and vice versa. There is a karmic connection, if only the conditions are made right to let it happen…


And underneath all of this, Phil is adapting, he is learning. He is starting to understand that what it is that Rita wants is not necessarily what he is projecting on her.


So, after finally exhausted every last option and angle to get something for himself and make it happen under his own terms, he lays himself bare, he learns that by giving something of himself and allowing events to unfold without his control, he is finally able to have the perfect day and get the perfect girl – redemption, transmutation, transmogrification, Nirvana… a new day – take that Nietzsche.


Phil: Do you know what today is?

Rita: No, what?

Phil: Today is tomorrow. It happened


So is Alberta/the oil patch really Phil? Are we crusty on the outside but with a heart of gold on the inside once we let down our guard? Can it happen like that for us? Can we convince the rest of Canada that we are who they want? Who knows. But the old way wasn’t working so I like to think so.


Distilled to its basics, the most applicable lesson to be learned from the film is that the only way out is through and that we can escape from whatever situation we’re in by adopting the correct attitude.


To get to the end result we want here in Alberta and for the oil patch and for pipeline proponents, we need to allow the process to happen, no matter how painful and no matter how frustrating or how often it seems like we are back at square one.


When you look at all the alternatives, Rita is worth it. We need to keep trying.


If the old way isn’t working, there is a message in there.


And maybe the clock changes over. Click.


Prescient, isn’t it? Except for just allowing process to happen – we now realize we need to “nudge it along”. But that is a matter for other blogs at a different time. But while I am on the subject of prediction…


It is now time for a few words about the New England Patriots and Tom Brady, who is about to play in his 9th Super Bowl as the starting QB. Ninth. Let that sink in for a minute.


This is by far the most of any player in NFL history and is an even more momentous achievement than it was last year when he appeared in his 8th.


Last year I wrote an eloquent tribute to the Pats and Brady enumerating all the many reasons I wanted to see them win, blathering about goats and records and all that jazz only to see them lose to Nick Foles and the upstart Eagles in an epic slugfest. Now Nick Foles is gone and the Eagles may or may not get back to the Super Bowl ever again. And Tom Brady is back.


Tom Brady and the Pats have been there 9 times together. And Vegas actually has them as favourites to get to the Super Bowl out of the AFC. Next year!!!!


It’s borderline absurd how this keeps happening. I know their division is weak, but come on.


How’s this for a groundhog day moment.


The New England Patriots and Tom Brady won their first Super Bowl in 2002 against the, wait for it, Rams (of St Louis) and the Greatest Show on Turf. A record-setting offensive powerhouse coached by an acknowledged genius. A team with the best running back in the game (3-time offensive player of the year), great receivers and a hot shot QB at the peak of his game (2-time MVP and future hall of famer Kurt Warner). Matched against a New England team coached by a surly bastard coach sporting a career losing record and a second year QB who was drafted in the 6th round – 199th overall. A team that wouldn’t even have been in the Super Bowl if it wasn’t for some questionable officiating.




Love him or hate him it’s undeniable that Brady is the GOAT. And he’s 41. That’s not just old by football standards, it’s nursing home time. He gets a 25% discount on knee braces.


But here he is in the Super Bowl again. The oldest quarterback to start in the Super Bowl – breaking the record he set last year. And people hate him for that? What were you doing at age 41? I know what you weren’t. You weren’t appearing in consecutive Super Bowls. You weren’t outduelling the future of the NFL in young Patrick Mahomes. You weren’t getting flattened by 325 pound freight trains on a regular basis.


Another year in the books for all of us. Feeling a little bit older, a little stiffer. A bit more sore in different spots.


To discount what he’s accomplished is to not understand what it means to age. What it’s like to feel order with each passing day, a little more stiff in the morning, sore in different spots after a simple workout, a little more fearful for personal safety with any physical activity.



That’s why I’m appreciative. We are watching the twilight part of what is perhaps the single greatest career by an athlete across any sport. One day, just like what happened to Phil Connors, the clock is going to tick over on Tom Brady and he will move on. And we will all miss him.



So rather than jeer and hope they lose, I am celebrating that I have been able to witness this for yet another year. Sustained greatness is cool and it’s awesome and it’ll help me, at least for 12 hours on Sunday (I’m big on pre-game) forget about the Groundhog Day movie gong show that is the oil and gas industry in Canada and, hopefully, witness history, one way or another.


Special note for Rams fans – I am a giant jinx in all my picks (remember in my forecast I picked the Saints to win the Super Bowl), so you should be betting the Rams to not only cover, but win outright. You heard it here first.

Prices as at February 1, 2019 (January 25, 2019)

  • The price of oil was off early then rose during the week on Venezuela chaos and positive growth news
    • Storage posted a slight increase
    • Production was flat
    • The rig count in the US was down
  • Withdrawals from storage were higher than anticipated for natural gas and the polar vortex covered the entire continent. Price fell…


  • WTI Crude: $55.31 ($53.55)
  • Western Canada Select: $45.74 (44.00)
  • AECO Spot *: $2.35 ($1.89)
  • NYMEX Gas: $2.803 ($3.174)
  • US/Canadian Dollar: $0.7626 ($0.7574)



  • As at January 25, 2019, US crude oil supplies were at 445.9 million barrels, an increase of 0.9 million barrels from the previous week and 27.6 million barrels above last year.
    • The number of days oil supply in storage is 26.1 compared to 25.1 last year at this time.
    • Production was flat for the week at 11.900 million barrels per day. Production last year at the same time was 9.919 million barrels per day.
    • Imports fell from 8.191 million barrels to 7.083 million barrels per day compared to 8.430 million barrels per day last year.
    • Exports from the US shrunk from 2.035 million barrels per day to 1.944 million barrels per day last week compared to 1.765 million barrels per day a year ago
    • Canadian exports to the US were 3.544 million barrels a day, down from 4.035
    • Refinery inputs fell during the during the week to 16.463 million barrels per day
  • As at January 25, 2019, US natural gas in storage was 2.197 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is about 13% lower than the 5-year average and about 1% less than last year’s level, following an implied net withdrawal of 173 Bcf during the report week
    • Overall U.S. natural gas consumption rose 8% during the report week
    • Production for the week was flat. Imports from Canada increased 7% from the week before. Exports to Mexico increased 3%
    • LNG exports totaled 25.5 Bcf
  • As of February 1, 2019, the Canadian rig count was up 11 at 243 (AB – 164; BC – 19; SK – 54; MB – 4; Other – 2. Rig count for the same period last year was 337.
  • US Onshore Oil rig count at February 1, 2019 is at 847, down 15 from the week prior.
    • Peak rig count was October 10, 2014 at 1,609
  • Natural gas rigs drilling in the United States were up 1 to 198.
    • Peak rig count before the downturn was November 11, 2014 at 356 (note the actual peak gas rig count was 1,606 on August 29, 2008)
  • Offshore rig count down 1 to 19
    • Offshore peak rig count at January 1, 2015 was 55

US split of Oil vs Gas rigs is 80%/20%, in Canada the split is 56%/44%

Trump Watch: Well now that the shutdown is over it’s back to Mueller, Walls, leftist Democrats and the Twitterverse. The next 20 months are going to be a wild ride. Buckle up.

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