23 June 2009

Hibernia clarification clarification

The provincial natural resources department issued a “clarification” today on some figures contained in its news release last week.

Seems they gave incorrect figures for production from the existing Hibernia field.

The original release quoted the Premier himself as saying that:

“The original Hibernia field has produced 670 million barrels to date and the provincial treasury has seen $3.9 billion from that production.”

The exact same phrase turned up in the Premier’s speaking notes for NOIA, by the way.

The “clarified” version is:

The correct figures are approximately 630 million barrels with revenue valued at $1.9 billion.

Both figures are supposed to represent cumulative oil production from first oil in 1997 up to the end of March 2009. The mistake is described as a “transcription error”.

According to the “clarification” – not a correction – this is the only error and “does not affect any other numbers in the news release or any other publications.”

Here’s the real number: up to the end of April, 2009, the Hibernia/Avalon field had produced 636,957, 170 barrels of oil. Hibernia produced a little over 605 million barrels p to the end of April 2009.

That figure was readily available - at the time the release was issued last week - from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.


Makes you wonder though if some of the other numbers might be off just a wee bit.

Like say this one from the same quoted attributed to the Premier:

“We expect a further $13 billion from the remaining main field production…”.

That was based on an assumed price of oil of US$80 a barrel, as the Premier indicated in subsequent interviews.


The offshore board gives three estimates of the reserves at Hibernia: proven; prove and probable; and proven, probable and possible. Let’s call them P1, P2 and P3 for simplicity sake. We’ll also knock off the Hibernia South Extension oil since that is apparently included in the totals for Hibernia.

Here’s the way it works out. The figures are in millions of barrels:







Less production to end Apr 09








Less Hibernia South Extension*




Total remaining




Low royalty (30%)

$ 9.312 billion

$25.44 billion

High royalty (42.5%)*

$1.56 billion

$13.192 billion

$36.04 billion

* Note - Approximately 50 million barrels of the extension come from the original Hibernia production license. That corresponds roughly to what remains in Hibernia based on CNLOPB figures and allowing that the provincial figures are a month older than the CNLOPB ones. Since the government news release indicated the 50 million was being produced at the 42.5% royalty, it’s pretty clearly working under the original Hibernia Tier 2 royalty regime.

Here’s where things get a wee bit interesting.

Once you do a little simple math, it’s pretty clear the provincial government news release deliberately chose the least volume of remaining oil when calculating the potential return from Hibernia now that pay-out is achieved. They put that together with the Tier 1 and Tier 2 super-royalty from the original Hibernia agreement (1990/2000) since that is what oil at US$80 a barrel would deliver.

That’s not bad for a project that wasn’t supposed to pay-out - ever - and that Danny Williams and others have trashed as one of the great give-aways of the past.

Even without going a step farther, those figures pretty much demolish the idea that Hibernia was a give-away. Not only will Hibernia deliver in spades from here on out but the royalty regime developed in 1990 and amended in 2000 is the basis for the Hibernia South agreement. There can’t be much higher an endorsement than to have the old deal used as the basis for the new one negotiated by the guy who, supposedly, is fighting relentlessly against any more give-aways.

Incidentally, using the same oil price assumption, the Hibernia South extension would deliver $8.8 billion in royalties (at the high end assumption of 50%). The oil company share would produce $1.7 billion, without accounting for any development, production or decommissioning costs.

Just scan across to those P3 figures, though, and try not to let your eyes pop out. The figure can’t be discounted. In fact, when natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale vetoed the Hibernia South extension plan in January 2007, she cited that high-end reserve estimate in her letter to the offshore board:


That P3 figure would mean that what remains of the original Hibernia deal would yield more in royalty alone than the “White Rose extension, Hebron and Hibernia South” in royalty and “revenue”.

Now there are a few more curious or questionable statements from the speech and news release last week, besides that one about Hibernia production.

For example, in the Premier’s NOIA speech we get this pair of paragraphs that came back-to-back just as they are presented here:

I am also extremely pleased to confirm today that after nearly 12 years of production, the Hibernia project is now in "payout" meaning the province is now receiving a royalty of 30 per cent.

When you consider the agreements reached by our government in terms of oil and gas development I think you will agree that although we had some critics and skeptics along the way, we have delivered for the people and for the industry in this province.

As the release makes plain – if you go back and check the facts - Hibernia in payout delivers 42.5% from the original royalty deal not 30%.

The second paragraph, though, appears to take credit for both Hibernia hitting pay-out and for delivering the massive royalties. Both those are a direct result of a deal negotiated almost 20 years ago.

It all makes you wonder when might we expect some further “clarifications” – they should really be corrections to factual mistakes and misleading claims - from last week’s announcement?