MEG Energy is an in situ oil sands producer operating in Alberta’s Athabasca region. Its operations target the production of heavy crude oil—one of the most carbon-heavy oil sources produced in the country.
Since in situ oil mining generates 2.5 times the emissions of oil produced on the surface, MEG’s plan to more than double its in situ production—from just over 87,000 barrels of oil per day in 2018 to 210,000 by 2028—solidifies the company’s position as a major emitter. 15
Head office: Calgary, Alberta
Revenue: C$2.4 billion 16
Assets: C$9.4 billion 17
Reserves: 1,398,700,000 oil bbl 18
Production: oil, natural gas liquids and oil sands: 80,774 bbl/d; total: 80,744 boe/d 19
Memberships: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, In Situ Oil Sands Alliance 21
MEG was inaugurated in 1999 by the McCaffrey Energy Group Inc., made up of individuals Bill McCaffrey, Steve Turner and Dave Wizinsky, who used their own personal funds to establish the company’s first oil sands holdings in the Christina Lake region.1 Since its formation MEG has expanded on its ownership stake in the Christina Lake oil sands to include a second commercial site in Surmont, Alberta, and two additional properties in the region are under regulatory review and upstream development.2 In 2010 the company went public through an initial public offering totalling C$700 million, led by major financial institutions Credit Suisse Securities, BMO Nesbitt Burns, Barclays Capital and Morgan Stanley Canada.3
|Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) Ltd.||CN||12.70|
|Highfields Capital Management LP||US||9.86|
|WP Lexington Private Equity BV||NL||9.70|
|WP XI Luxco SARL||LU||7.10|
|Province of Québec||CA||6.47|
|TIAA Board of Overseers||US||3.14|
|Dimensional Fund Advisors||US||3.13|
|Kopernik Global Investors LLC||US||2.74|
|Vanguard Group Inc.||US||1.97|
|Gestion Javas Inc.||CA||1.78|
Included are all shareholdings of 1% and greater. Source: Orbis Database, October 2018.
MEG’s operations are centred on two in situ oil extraction sites in the oil sands: the Christina Lake Project and the Surmont Project, both located south of Fort McMurray in northeastern Alberta. The company also develops and markets technology for bitumen extraction. One favoured project allows the company to reduce the amount of diluent—lighter-weight oil used to dilute heavy crude—before oil can be transported by rail and pipeline.4 This technology has received funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Alberta Innovates and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation.5
MEG’s growth strategy primarily involves the expansion of its in situ production capacities in northern Alberta through its proprietary application of “enhanced modified steam and gas push” (eMSAGP), a form of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) commonly used in the region. Although it has sold off a considerable portion of its oil storage facilities in Alberta and pipeline infrastructure running throughout Canada and the US,6 MEG’s ongoing linkage to US refineries in the Gulf of Mexico is a vital aspect of its plans for future growth.
A key component of MEG’s commitment to increase its oil sands production is the use of various technologies to increase efficiency. For example, it markets its eMSAGP technology as a means of reducing the amount of steam required to extract each barrel of oil. While less water is required to create steam for the extraction process, eMSAGP technology actually utilizes condensed gases like natural gas instead.7 No research is available yet that compares the emissions from traditional SAGD to eMSAGP extraction, but considering the addition of carbon to the process, the environmental impact of eMSAGP is likely worse. While MEG suggests that technologies such as eMSAGP help the company improve on its environmental record by using less resources per barrel of oil produced, it adds that by reducing the costs involved in extracting oil, technological advancements will enable the company to extract more oil overall.8 Therefore, the cumulative carbon weight of the “green” technologies MEG employs will outweigh the benefits of reduced inputs.
MEG’s business portfolio also included oil storage and transportation in Alberta until very recently. This included the Stonefell Terminal, near Edmonton, which has a capacity of 900,000 barrels, and a 50 per cent stake in Access Pipeline Inc., whose network connected the Christina Lake oil sands region to Edmonton’s refineries and transportation hub.9 The sale of this infrastructure may not impact MEG’s capability to get its oil to market, however. It has access to the US refineries via the US Flanagan–Seaway transportation system, running from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The Canadian leg is serviced by rail. MEG’s shipping quota on Enbridge-owned Flanagan South and Enterprise and Enbridge- owned Seaway Twin pipelines 10 increased in January 2016, “thereby furthering the Corporation’s strategy of broadening market access to world prices”11 and ensuring that Canadian opposition to pipeline expansion—like the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline 12—does not impact its bottom line.
Meanwhile, MEG appears to be planning to develop its oil assets long into the future. As a result of the transaction, MEG acquired pipeline access to its Christina Lake production site for the next 30 years, as well as a 30-year approval to use the terminal for its own storage needs.13 Its strategy to expand production is also slated for the long term: in 2017 the company filed for regulatory approval from the Alberta Energy Regulator for its May River Project, which would add another 164,000 barrels of bitumen per day to its current production—double that of its current production.14
Learn more about MEG Energy at LittleSis.org
The intent of the Corporate Mapping Project database is to engage Canadians in a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel sector in our democracy, by “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.