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Lower Alberta crude prices push down commodities index: Scotiabank

The benchmark Western Canadian Select drops by 20 percent in December


TORONTO—A sharp drop in the price of Alberta heavy crude last month has pushed down the Scotiabank commodity price index by 4.6 percent, despite increases in the mining, forestry and agricultural sectors. Scotiabank says a benchmark Alberta heavy crude, known as Western Canadian Select, dropped to US$57.84 per barrel last month.

That’s down nearly US$15 a barrel from November, a drop of about 20 percent. It’s also about US$30 a barrel below the price paid for West Texas Intermediate, a more widely used North American benchmark crude.

Alberta heavy crude has long been sold at a discount to other grades because of the additional processing required to turn it into products such as gasoline. But a shortage of pipeline and storage capacity has created a bottleneck that has resulted in an oversupply of crudes from Canada and the northern US.

Scotiabank’s report says the discount on Alberta heavy crude widened considerably last month and it’s expected to grow in January and February.

“While West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil prices edged up to US$88.25 last month, the WCS discount off WTI ballooned to US$30.41 and will climb further to US$32.84 in January and US$36.94 in February,” Scotiabank commodities specialist Patricia Mohr says in her report, issued January 28.

Oil is one of Canada’s most important exports and a major reason for the overall economy’s strength in recent years. However, dependence on the US has been cited as a challenge for Canadian oil producers because of the price discounts. Among the other commodities tracked by Scotiabank:

  • the metal and minerals subindex rose 1.7 percent in December, month-to-month;
  • forest products gained 3.2 percent;
  • agricultural produce edged up 0.8 percent.