Alberta issued oil & gas licenses/leases for 20.5M hectares since 2010

That’s more than the area of all the oil sands and the entire provincial parks system combined.

I recently encountered data for leases and licenses for oil and gas extraction in Alberta. I thought I’d share what I found.

The data goes back to 1996, but I’m going to discuss only data from the last decade or so.

First, here’s a graph showing total number of leases and licenses per month between January 2010 and June 2021.

We clearly see that the number of new licenses and leases has significantly decreased over time, from a high of 932 in September 2010 to a low of, well, 0 over a 6-month stretch last year during the pandemic.

Since the province started issuing leases and licenses again last November, they’ve averaged about 58 new ones a month.

Here’s a look at number of leases and licenses per year.

Pretty much the same story.

And since we’re only through the first half of 2021, I thought I’d share what the first half of each year looks like for a better comparison.

Pretty much still shows a decrease in total leases and licences over the last decade.

Next, we’ll look at the total hectares covered by the leases and licences.

Unsurprisingly, total hectares has dropped over the last 12 years; although it seems to me as though the decrease is more gradual, when compared to the number of licenses and leases and their bonuses. I found that interesting.

Here are the hectares by year.

Alberta issued oil and gas leases and licenses covering a total of approximately 20.5 million hectares. For reference, the oil sands in northern Alberta lie beneath an area about 14.2 million hectares. Also, Alberta’s parks system takes up about 4.4 million hectares.

Keep in mind, however, that some parcels may include sections that were included in other parcels—parcels are sometimes sold by geological formation rights and not always straight surface-to-deposit. So, the 20.5 million hectares isn’t exactly total land area.

Now that we know the hectares and the number of parcels per license/lease, we can see how many hectares there were per parcel.

Unlike the other charts, this one seems to indicate a pretty consistent hectares per parcel ratio.

Let’s look at the yearly average.

Again, fairly consistent.

Finally, let’s look at bonuses. That’s how much money the government gets for the licenses and leases.

Once again, the graph shows a massive decline over the last decade. Although, this time, it seems things have been pretty stable for the last 5 years or so, other than a brief spike in late 2017 and early 2018.

Here’s what the bonuses look like per year:

Since January 2010, the provincial government has received about $9.7 billion in total from bonuses through the sale of oil and gas licences and leases. That’s from a total of roughly 35,000 leases, which works out to roughly $275,000 per lease/licence.

Most of those bonuses were received in the first 2 years, when the government got just shy of $6 billion. The 10 years that followed (including only the first 6 months of 2021) brought in only about $3.8 billion.

That’s an average of about $380 million per year. Over the last 5 years, that average has dropped to $239 million per year, $291 million if you exclude last year because of the pandemic.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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