The head of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. has voiced his displeasure at the idea of Alberta’s $3.7-billion deal with Canada’s two biggest rail companies to ship more crude via rail amid a pipeline crunch squeezing oilsands producers.
“So the government steps in, we didn’t like it at all,” said Keith Creel, speaking at a conference in Miami on Wednesday.
The CEO was referring to Premier Rachel Notley’s decision to work out a plan that aims to move up to 120,000 barrels of oil per day by rail by 2020.
“I don’t think that’s healthy in a commercial space. You can let the commercial deals work and let commerce take place and the deals will drive right good business decisions and investment decisions,” Creel said, adding that the move caused “uncertainty.”
“I was pretty clear about it — I just don’t think it’s healthy.”
Despite his laissez-faire viewpoint, Creel admitted the deal was “just as good if not better” than others hammered out by CP Rail.
The railways have drawn on lessons from unfilled contracts following the crude-by-rail boom five years ago, entering into multi-year contracts with oil shippers that set minimum volumes and higher fees to help insulate them from volatile demand.
“We realized the risk in dealing with crude, probably more so than any other railroad because we were burned so bad the last time,” Creel said.
On Tuesday, Notley announced a plan that will see Alberta lease about 4,400 rail cars to get more oil to foreign markets, including refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast, while the province works to increase pipeline capacity.
The rail plan will net $2.2 billion for taxpayers, with the increased traffic expected to boost commercial, royalty, and tax revenue by $5.9 billion, she said.
Opposition Leader Jason Kenney dubbed the deal “corporate welfare” and “a catastrophic mistake.”
Initial daily shipments of 20,000 barrels are expected to begin as early as July along tracks owned by CP Rail as well as Canadian National Railway Co.
Crude-by-rail exports have spiked over the past year amidst a pipeline shortage and a big discount on Western Canadian Select oil, hitting a record 353,789 barrels per day in December, a 133 per cent year-over-year increase, according to the National Energy Board.
Companies in this story: (TSX:CP, TSX:CNR)
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version stated that Notley’s plan move up to 120,00 barrels of oil per day by rail by 2020.