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Vol. 12, No. 5 Week of February 04, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Oil Patch Insider

‘Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes ...’

And the pipes were calling when Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams made a three-day visit to the Alberta oil sands.

He and the three other provincial leaders from Atlantic Canada got led into one meeting by a bagpiper.

But it wasn’t all a love fest for Williams, in particular.

The political nemesis of the oil patch these days got a sharp rap over the knuckles while he was in Alberta.

And, to be fair, he responded in the best way he could, by laying on the charm.

Fresh from his latest skirmish with the industry, after his government stopped progress on a 233 million barrel addition to Newfoundland’s offshore Hibernia project, he and the premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island were in Alberta seeking stronger economic ties between their region and Alberta.

The so-called “four wise men from the east” have grown tired of seeing an exodus of their residents to high-paying jobs in the oil sands (the latest study estimates 13,000 Atlantic Canadians flocked to Alberta in the past year, robbing their home regions of highly-skilled workers).

They had the backing of federal Labor Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn in making their case for more oil sands jobs to be outsourced.

A closed meeting with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach failed to yield any immediate results beyond a promise to explore the chances of directing more contracts outside Alberta.

But Syncrude Canada Chief Executive Officer Charles Ruigrock raised some hopes by assuring the visitors his company would be in the market for steel-related products such as valves and fittings.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham assured Albertans “we are not here to steal your jobs. We’re not asking for special favors, we’re asking to participate in fair bids.”

Showing unusual tact, Williams said: “A rising tide lifts all boats. We want to be part of your tide. The more successful you are, the more successful we are.”

But he had already had a taste of the petroleum industry’s displeasure with attempts to squeeze better returns from the offshore and gain an equity stake for his province in the new ventures.

That led to the collapse last year of plans for the Hebron-Ben Nevis project when the industry partners felt Williams was driving too tough a bargain.

Now the Hibernia consortium is chafing over the Newfoundland government’s demand for more information on Hibernia South and specifics on what benefits would accrue to the province.

Petro-Canada Chief Executive Officer Ron Brenneman delivered what smacked of a sharp rebuke Jan. 25 when he said the questions raised should be “readily answerable” and should not delay work on the project by up to 12 months.

“Until we actually put data together and get a response from the government, it’s hard to say whether this is an opening gambit on some other negotiation or what,” he said.

“We have not been good at predicting responses in the (Newfoundland) arena, so I’m not going to venture what it might look like.”

But Brenneman slipped in a veiled threat, noting that Petro-Canada has “other places to spend our capital. We have a pretty substantial capital program in a number of other high-quality projects.”

That was the essence of the message last year when the Hebron partners (Chevron, ExxonMobil, Petro-Canada and Norsk Hydro) disbanded their project teams and scattered their most-talented employees around the globe.

—Gary Park

ConocoPhillips splits Technology & Major Projects; Ryan Lance part of the deal

ConocoPhillips said Jan. 30 that it has split its Technology & Major Projects organization into two groups, Technology and Project Development effective Feb. 1.

Ryan Lance, currently senior vice president, Technology & Major Projects, will become senior vice president, Technology. He will remain in Houston and a member of ConocoPhillips’ management committee.

Lance joined ARCO in 1984 and held a number of engineering and operations positions in Alaska, California and Texas. After Phillips’ acquisition of ARCO Alaska in 2000, Lance was named vice president of Phillips’ and then ConocoPhillips’ Lower 48 operations. In 2003 he was named president of the company’s Asia Pacific exploration and production operations, then president of strategy, integration and specialty businesses for Refining, Marketing, Supply & Transportation in June 2006, before being named to his current position in 2006.

ConocoPhillips said the Technology group will be responsible for cultivating strategies and business development opportunities that will position ConocoPhillips in technologies that will improve current business performance and provide opportunities for future growth. This group also will provide technical support for the company’s global upstream and downstream businesses.

The Project Development group will retain oversight of the engineering, construction and procurement activities related to the company’s major upstream and downstream global projects.

It will be headed by Luc Messier, currently president and chief executive officer of Technip USA, who will join ConocoPhillips as senior vice president, Project Development. Messier will be located in Houston and will become a member of ConocoPhillips’ management committee.

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