Last month, Alberta’s oil and gas minister—er, I mean, energy minister—Sonya Savage tweeted out that 2021 saw oil production at record-breaking levels.
Her tweet linked to an article written by Rob Roach, deputy chief economist at ATB Economics, which said that oil production was up 8% in 2021, reaching a new high of 1.32 billion barrels. The previous high—1.29 billion barrels—was set in 2019. Also, by comparison, oil production in 2020 had dropped by 5.1%.
These numbers shouldn’t be that surprising actually. Here, let me show you.
The data Roach cites comes from Alberta Energy Regulator and can be found at the provincial government’s Economic Dashboard website.
Roach’s claim is a bit misleading given that data isn’t available for December 2021, and his figures are a result of adding together the monthly totals between December 2020 and November 2021.
But let’s just assume—for argument’s sake—they’d be similar if the data was January 2021 to December 2021.
The data provided by the Alberta Energy Regulator in cubic metres, but if we multiply by 6.29, we get a rough conversion to barrels. Here is what production looks like for the last 14 years, ending in November of that year and starting in the December of the previous year.
Why it’s not surprising that this past year saw record-breaking levels of oil production is because nearly every year is a record-breaking year. In fact, the only year that never set a new record were 2016—when forest fires near and in Fort McMurray affected production—and 2020—when the COVID-19 pandemic curbed production.
So to say that there was a new oil production record set in 2021 is kind of meaningless. Production levels don’t really change based on the government in power. It’s not like this is a result of anything the UCP did. But the average voter doesn’t know that, so this sort of announcement is about making people think you’re getting stuff done.
Anyhow, this report made me curious about natural gas production.
Given that data is available only up to November 2021, I decided to show annual production from January to November of each year, leaving out each December.
Well, that sure shows a different story.
While oil production might be at record levels, we can’t say the same thing about natural gas production.
For the first 11 months of 2021, natural gas production hit 95.12 million m3. That’s 23.4% lower than in 2007, the highest production level available in the AER dataset. As well, natural gas production was at the second lowest level since 2014, and the lowest level was during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An AER document published in 2016 indicated that the declining numbers between 2007 and 2014 were due to declining well productivity, as well as reduced export demand because of expanded shale gas production in the United States.
Interestingly, however, between 2015 and 2018, the four years of the NDP administration, natural gas production increased every year. During their 4-year term, natural gas production increased 6.6%. In the 8 years prior to their getting into power, natural gas production increased only one time: in 2014.
During the 3 years the UCP have been in power, natural gas production seems to have been decreasing, dropping 4.3% between the end of 2018 and the end of 2021.
I wonder why we never hear the UCP bragging about natural gas production levels.