05 January 2010

Oil production remains lower than forecast

Provincial government oil production forecast remains way off track.

Budget 2009 predicted oil production would total 98 million barrels in 2009.  In December, the financial update raised the forecast to 101 million barrels.

But as of the end of November the offshore had produced only 59 million barrels and with only four months left in the fiscal year, it would take a miracle to hit the spring projection let alone the December number forecast by the provincial finance department.

Offshore oil production in October 2009 was 32% below the same month in 2008 and November production was down by 28.4%, according to actual production figures from the offshore regulatory board.  BP presented earlier figures in November.

To give a sense of of how far down current oil production is compared to previous years, take a look at this chart that compares April to November for each of the past three fiscal years.  The grey bars are 2007.  The back is 2008 and the red is 2009.

oil production comparisonIn order to meet the provincial government’s Budget 2009 target, oil production in the last four months of the current fiscal year would have to run higher than April 2009 in each month.

To hit the December projection, production would have to run at levels of about 10.5 million barrels a month, and that’s a figure the offshore hasn’t hit this fiscal year at all. 

Overall, if production is running below forecasts, it will be that much harder for the provincial government to hit its revenue forecasts. After all, even the finance minister admitted in a year end interview that virtually every major sector of the provincial economy – he didn’t really mention oil - was in decline.

“The recession, particularly the way it hit the U.S., impacted their ability to buy products from us and that hurt the fishing industry, that hurt the pulp and paper industry in a major way, and it hurt the mining industry,” the MHA for Humber East told The Western Star.

He said the major losses of revenue from those sectors, combined with losses of personal income tax and sales tax, impacts government’s ability to spend in other areas such as education and health care.

Of course, regular BP readers have a better sense of what’s going on with oil production than the anything the finance minister has said.

And just think about it for a second:  if the finance department’s offshore production forecasts are so far out of whack with actual production, what else in the December forecast was off in a bad way as well?