Drilling rights sales surge in B.C., Alberta

CALGARY — Sales of Crown drilling rights in Alberta and B.C. have already delivered more money to provincial treasuries this year than last year, when they generated record low returns.

Oil and gas producers in Alberta have paid out a total of $138 million in drilling rights auctions so far this year, more than the $137 million they spent in all of 2016.

In British Columbia, they’ve spent $63 million, more than quadruple the $15 million last year.

The figures illustrate growing oilpatch confidence in light of stronger commodity prices this year as well as burgeoning production from Western Canadian shale oil and gas wells.

TD Securities analyst Juan Jarrah says in a report that the Alberta sales are being driven by companies exploring the west-central part of the province where they’ve discovered a shallower and more oil-rich leg of the extensive Duvernay shale formation.

The Kaybob Duvernay, located farther north, has attracted most of the investment in the play so far and was considered the driving force behind Alberta’s record-setting $3.5 billion in drilling rights sales in 2011.

The best year for drilling rights sales in B.C. was 2008, when the province raised $2.7 billion.

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