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Alberta

Alberta ramps up vaccine rollout

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Premier Jason Kenney

Alberta’s government will bring in four new measures starting immediately to ramp-up the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as infections and hospitalizations rise.

The new measures will mean about 500,000 more Albertans will be eligible to be vaccinated starting April 7.

“We are in a race between the vaccines and variants, and finally doses are arriving in significant numbers. We will use these to aggressively expand our rollout, speeding up the timelines and expanding the ways that we get the doses to Albertans. We will meet or surpass our promise to offer every adult a first dose by June 30.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“Our health officials are working hard to make new shipments of vaccine available to Albertans as soon as they arrive. I strongly urge Albertans to get immunized as soon as they are eligible. When it’s your turn, please sign up for your shot, show up for your appointment and follow up for your second dose.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

Opening bookings to everyone in Phase 2B

Starting April 7 at 8 a.m., anyone born in 2005 or earlier with eligible underlying health conditions can book appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at participating pharmacies or with Alberta Health Services (AHS) online or by calling 811.

Those currently eligible under Phase 2B are Albertans with underlying health conditions born in or before 1973. This amounts to about 150,000 Albertans. By expanding to those born in 2005 or before, 500,000 more Albertans will be eligible.

Information on eligible health conditions, including examples, is available at alberta.ca/vaccine.

AstraZeneca vaccine available for Albertans 55+

Albertans aged 55 to 64 who do not have a chronic health condition can now make an appointment to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Effective immediately, anyone born between 1957 and 1966 can book appointments at participating pharmacies across the province. AHS will also begin booking appointments starting on Monday, April 12.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective at reducing severe illness from COVID-19. The rare blood clots reported in Europe have not been reported in Canada, and risk of COVID-19 infection is far greater than any vaccine risk.

Based on current evidence, Albertans who are 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are at least 10 times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit from COVID-19, and at least 45 times more likely to need hospital treatment for COVID-19, than they are to experience any form of the rare, treatable blood clots reported in Europe.

Eligible Albertans in this phase can choose to wait to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to be available to them when Phase 2D opens in May.

Rapid flow clinics

Bookings for rapid flow clinics in Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat will open on Friday, April 9. More clinics will open in Edmonton and Calgary next week.

Bookings can be made with Alberta Health Services (AHS) online or by calling 811.

Pharmacy walk-ins

Alberta will soon expand its vaccine rollout at participating pharmacies to allow walk-in bookings, rather than those by appointment only. Additional information will be shared when pharmacy walk-ins become available next week.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses and protect Alberta’s health-care system.

Alberta

New surveillance teams led by the Alberta Sheriffs working with local police in rural communities

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More boots on the ground to fight rural crime

Rural crime continues to be a top concern among residents and businesses in rural Alberta, which is why Alberta’s government remains committed to addressing it through enhanced surveillance and other crime reduction initiatives. Alberta’s government invested $4.3 million for the Alberta Sheriffs to put more boots on the ground. This investment supported the establishment of two plainclothes teams – one in northern Alberta and one in southern Alberta – to support police in carrying out surveillance on criminal targets in rural areas.

Both teams are now fully staffed and operational, ready to fight crime in rural areas across Alberta. These rural surveillance teams will work to prevent crime, monitor agricultural theft and work in collaboration with local law enforcement to share intelligence and resources to keep Albertans and their property safe and secure.

“Criminals and organized crime are not welcome in Alberta. Full stop. The addition of two new surveillance teams will further support our law enforcement partners in stamping out criminal activity in Alberta’s rural areas. This is about supporting local investigations to address local crime in our smaller communities. Together, both teams will form another key component of Alberta’s efforts to combat crime and ensure Albertans feel safe at home and in their communities, regardless of where they live.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

The Alberta Sheriffs have an existing surveillance unit that is part of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) and focused mainly on serious and organized crime investigations. The new surveillance teams will fill a gap by helping rural RCMP detachments with local investigations.

“Through their specialized knowledge, training and experience, Alberta’s new surveillance teams are providing another important mechanism in the fight against crime in Alberta’s rural communities. Working in close collaboration with the RCMP and other policing agencies, their efforts will play a key role in gathering evidence and information that will help disrupt crime throughout the province.”

Mike Letourneau, superintendent, Alberta Sheriffs

“This announcement by the Alberta government and Minister Ellis is a positive step forward for the residents of Alberta, especially in rural areas. Targeting known criminals is a very effective way to reduce the level of crime taking place and will greatly assist the RCMP who have a vast area to police.”

Lance Colby, mayor, Town of Carstairs

“We are happy to hear about increased resources being allocated to assist our communities. Addressing rural crime is one of the top priorities of the Alberta RCMP, and our partners at the Alberta Sheriffs already play a vital role in keeping Albertans safe. The creation of these new surveillance teams will help augment our ongoing crime reduction strategies in Alberta communities, and we look forward to working with them going forward.”

Trevor Daroux, assistant commissioner, criminal operations officer, Alberta RCMP

The new surveillance teams are part of a suite of measures to expand the role of the Alberta Sheriffs and make Alberta communities safer. Other actions include the expansion of the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit – which uses legal sanctions and court orders to target problem properties where illegal activities are taking place – and the expansion of the RAPID Response initiative with funding for the Sheriff Highway Patrol to train and equip members to assist the RCMP with emergencies and high-priority calls.

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Start-up of Trans Mountain expansion ‘going very well’ as global buyers ink deals for Canadian crude

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A worker at Trans Mountain’s Burnaby Terminal. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Chinese refiner pays about US$10 more for oil off TMX compared to sales value in Alberta

Canada’s oil sands producers are “back in the limelight” for investors following completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, according to a report by Enervus Intelligence Research.

For the first time in the better part of a decade, there is now breathing room on the system to ship all of the oil producers are able to sell off the coast of B.C.

Up until this May, Trans Mountain was regularly overbooked. Not anymore.

The crude carrier Dubai Angel picked up the first shipment from the long-awaited expansion on May 22, setting sail for China and a customer of oil sands producer Suncor Energy.

Analysts estimate Trans Mountain loaded 20 vessels in June, compared to a pre-expansion average of five per month.

“You’re seeing multiple buyers. It’s going very well,” said Phil Skolnick, managing director of research with New York-based Eight Capital.

“You’re seeing the exact buyers that we always thought were going to show up, the U.S. west coast refineries and as well as the Asian refineries, and there was a shipment that went to India as well.”

The “Golden Weld” in April 2024 marked the mechanical completion and end of construction for the Trans Mountain expansion project. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

Canadian crude in demand on the global market

Asian markets – particularly China, where refineries can process “substantial quantities” of extra heavy crude and bitumen – are now “opened in earnest” to Canadian oil, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its June Oil 2024 report.

“There’s demand for this crude and people are going to make deals,” said Kevin Birn, chief analyst of Canadian oil markets with S&P Global.

The IEA said Canadian crude will increasingly compete with heavy oil from other countries, particularly those in Latin America and the Middle East.

June’s loading of 20 vessels is slightly lower than the 22 vessels Trans Mountain had targeted, but Skolnick said a few bumps in the project’s ramp-up are to be expected.

“About three months ago, the shippers were telling investors on their calls, don’t expect it to be a smooth ramp up, it’s going to be a bit bumpy, but I think they’re expecting by Q4 you should start seeing everyone at peak rates,” Skolnick said.

Delivering higher prices

Trans Mountain’s expanded Westridge Terminal at Burnaby, B.C. now has capacity to load 34 so-called “Aframax” vessels each month.

One of the first deals, with Chinese refiner Rongsheng Petrochemical, indicates the Trans Mountain expansion is delivering on one of its expected benefits – higher prices for Canadian oil.

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office has said that an increase of US$5 per barrel for Canadian heavy oil over one year would add $6 billion to Canada’s economy.

The June deal between Rongsheng and an unnamed oil sands shipper saw a shipment of Access Western Blend (AWB) purchased for approximately US$6 per barrel below the Brent global oil benchmark. That implies an AWB selling price of approximately US$75 per barrel, or about US$10 more than the price received for AWB in Alberta.

Expanded export capacity at the Trans Mountain Westridge Terminal. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

More pipeline capacity needed

Oil sands production – currently about 3.4 million barrels per day – is projected to rise to 3.8 million barrels per day by the end of the decade before declining slightly to about 3.6 million barrels per day in 2035, according to the latest outlook by S&P Global.

“Despite the recent completion of the Trans Mountain Expansion project, additional capacity will still be needed, likely via expansion or optimization of the existing pipeline system,” wrote Birn and S&P senior research analyst Celina Hwang in May.

“By 2026, we forecast the need for further export capacity to ensure that the system remains balanced on pipeline economics.”

Uncertainty over the federal government’s proposed oil and gas emissions cap “adds hesitation” to companies considering large-scale production growth, wrote Birn and Hwang.

Global oil demand rising

World oil demand, which according to the IEA reached a record 103 million barrels per day in 2023, is projected to continue rising despite increased investment in renewable and alternative energy.

June outlook by the International Energy Forum (IEF) pegs 2030 oil demand at nearly 110 million barrels per day.

“More investment in new oil and gas supply is needed to meet growing demand and maintain energy market stability, which is the foundation of global economic and social well-being,” said IEF secretary Joseph McMonigle.

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