Analysis: Utica Shale Could Boost Quebec Government Income, Create Jobs

Utica shale gas exploration efforts in Quebec could generate C$278 million per year in revenue for the Quebec government and create at least nearly 5,000 jobs per year by 2015, and generate significant economic benefits going forward, according to a study conducted by independent consulting firm SECOR.

The Quebec Oil and Gas Association asked SECOR to conduct the study to estimate the economic impact of exploration and exploitation of shale gas, specifically on jobs and revenues for the Quebec government. SECOR conducted to study last fall.

SECOR analyzed two scenarios in the study. In the base scenario, SECOR assumes that 150 wells per year are drilled from 2015, while the second scenario assumes that the level of drilling will stabilize at 600 wells per year from 2016. Both cases assume that there will be six wells drilled per drill site.

According to SECOR's analysis, in full operation the drilling of one well will generate C$1.85 million in value added to Quebec and some 33 jobs annually. Under the base scenario, in 2015 the production of 150 wells will create C$278 million in revenue for the government and close to 5,000 jobs. This analysis is based primarily on the input-output model of l'Institut de statistique du Québec.

However, the production phase of a well, which stretches over 50 years, is estimated to create relatively few jobs, or 28 jobs per 100 wells in production, with the 293 wells forecasted in the base scenario in 2015 expected to create 82 jobs. Because fewer jobs would be created, royalties would become important as a revenue source during the production phase. To identify its importance, the SECOR study was based on gas prices in the fall of 2009, $6/Mcf and a royalty rate of 10%. The average royalty per well under these assumptions would be around C$150,000 per year.

"At this stage we cannot predict the level of industry development, as the potential in Quebec is not sufficiently characterized. If a thousand wells are in production on 150 sites, the Government of Quebec could receive C$150 million in royalties annually. Under the second scenario, the exploitation of 7,000 wells, following the assumed hypothesis, would translate into annual royalties slightly above C$1 billion," SECOR said.

The study of benefits does not include expenses incurred for transportation and distribution of the natural gas extracted, corporate taxes paid by the industry and its suppliers, nor does it integrate the dynamic or structural effects for the economy of Quebec.

Developing shale gas resources is part of Quebec's plan to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbon imports. Currently, the province imports all of the hydrocarbons it consumes; the cost associated with oil and gas imports rose from C$12 billion in 2005 and 2006 to C$14 billion in 2008. Quebec imports most of the gas it uses from Western Canada at a high price; the province's industrial sector consumes more than half of the natural gas consumed in the province. At the same time, the province's energy demand also grew by 1.1 percent between 1987 and 2006, despite improvements in energy intensity.

Utica shale could allow Quebec to meet between 50% and 100% of its own energy demand, SECOR said. Development of Utica shale also could significantly improve Quebec's trade balance from C$400 million in 2015 to C$1 billion in 2025.

Over the 2010-2015 period, SECOR estimates that 13,105 jobs will be created or maintained according to the basic scenario of the industry, or an average of 2,184 jobs per year; an estimated C$790 million would be added to the gross domestic product of Quebec, with the Quebec government income expected to increase by C$232 million; and income for the federal Canadian government forecast to rise by C$39.3 million.

The development of technology that has enabled successful development of U.S. shale plays has allowed the Utica shale to emerge as a promising play. SECOR estimates that extractable gas reserves in Quebec total between 9 Tcf and 41 Tcf and have a production value of between C$45 billion and C$210 billion. However, this potential has not yet been proven commercially, and significant investment is required to test this potential. SECOR notes that the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in neighboring basins with a similar geological context to Quebec will enable technology transfer and economies of scale.

Investment in Utica shale exploration and development in Quebec has totaled C$130 million over the past two years by six companies active in the region, and could exceed more than C$630 million a year by 2015. To date, 19 wells have been or will be drilled, and exploration activity is expected to accelerate over the next few years, with production expected to begin in 2011.

The Quebec government will sign this fall a memorandum of understanding with the shale gas industry that will detail best practices the industry will be required to implement for gas exploration and development in Quebec. This will involve a social agreement between industry, government and the public.

The memorandum of understanding is part of the Quebec government's plan to manage the development of shale gas resources in the Canadian province. The plan will include consulting with partners and the public on how shale gas exploration and development activities will be controlled.


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