In Alberta, royalties are a share of production from resources the government owns on behalf of Albertans. Under the Mines and Minerals Act, the government has the option to take its royalty share either in cash or in kind. Currently, the government takes its share of conventional crude oil production in kind and collects its royalty share for other resources in cash.
The decision to exercise the in-kind option for bitumen was identified in the 2007 Alberta Royalty Framework a way for the Crown to use its share of bitumen strategically to supply potential upgraders and refineries in Alberta, and to optimize its royalty share by marketing those volumes. This program is known as Bitumen Royalty-in-Kind (BRIK).
- Foster Value-Added Oil Sands Development, use royalty bitumen barrels to stimulate value-added activities; (such as upgrading, refining and petrochemical development). The resultant incremental investment would create economic activity and jobs from capital project construction and operations. This would positively impact Alberta’s long run economic sustainability and diversify the product portfolio produced in Alberta while allowing the province to hedge its bitumen commodity risk.
- Enhance the transparency and liquidity in the bitumen market, bitumen is a difficult product to market, the quality can vary and it requires addition of diluents or upgrading to a synthetic crude oil (SCO) for shipping on pipelines. The BRIK program includes a market design to facilitate more buyers and sellers of bitumen and a more transparent and liquid market. This will help assist Alberta in getting full value for its royalties.
- Share in the differential gains, and risks, between SCO and bitumen, historically, there has been a considerable differential between the price of bitumen and SCO. By assuming some risk and cost associated with processing, Alberta could obtain increased revenue compared with taking cash based on bitumen pricing.