Coronavirus impedes Alberta’s drive to reach oil markets in Asia

By Robert Tuttle on 2/5/2020

CALGARY (Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus is hampering the Canadian oil industry’s efforts to build relations with crude buyers in Asia.

A group of “energy-related” business executives were planning a trip to China in the middle of February, but those plans had to be scrapped due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, Wenran Jiang, director of the Canada-China Energy & Environment Forum, said in an interview.

Jiang, who is currently working as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, said he was planning to accompany the group.

The outbreak has prompted some airlines to cancel flights to China, as officials try to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Meanwhile, about 50 million people in more than a dozen Chinese cities have been placed in lockdown by the Asian nation’s government.

Chinese companies including Cnooc Ltd. and PetroChina Co. are major investors in Alberta’s oil sands, which boast the world’s third-largest crude reserves. Asian countries, and China in particular, are seen as important future markets for Canadian oil, nearly all of which currently goes to the U.S.

The planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Vancouver, which is under construction and held off a court challenge Tuesday that could have halted work, is considered vital to increasing exports to Asia.

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