II Background on the Oil Business: Canada and New Brunswick
A. Crude Oil Production
Crude oil is the term used to describe oil in its natural state as it is pumped from sea or land based wells. Crude oil is traded in barrel quantities. One barrel equals 159 litres. The majority of Canadian crude oil production or oil industry "upstream" activity occurs in western Canada. The Cohasset - Panuke field off the coast of Nova Scotia produces 20,000 to 25,000 barrels of crude per day, most of which is shipped to markets in the United States. The Hibernia and Terra Nova fields under development off the Coast of Newfoundland are expected to produce 200,000 barrels per day.
Oil producers generally pay royalties to the jurisdiction where wells are located, to compensate for the depletion of a non-renewable resource. In Canada, these royalties are collected by the provinces.
Crude oil varies in composition depending upon its source. The main factors are sulphur content and density. Crude is priced at a particular location with reference to its source which serves as an indicator of type or grade. West Texas Intermediate, North Sea Brent and Saudi Arabia light are similar crudes and are used as the benchmark crudes for pricing other types of light crude oil. An example of a benchmark price would be "West Texas Intermediate at Chicago."
The price of crude oil is determined by world market forces based on supply and demand. Refineries can contract with producers for long term supply arrangements at fixed prices or purchase on the "spot market" and take immediate delivery. Thus at any point in time, refineries in the same market area could be paying different prices for crude as a result of different supply contracts. NR Can surveys indicate that on average across Canada, the cost of crude has represented from 14.0˘ to 16.0˘ of the total cost of a litre of regular unleaded gasoline between 1991 and 1995 or approximately 29% of the retail price of gasoline.
B. Refinery Operations
Crude oil is transported from production fields to refineries by pipeline or marine tanker. Atlantic Canadian refineries purchase the majority of their requirements on the world market. The crude produced in western Canada tends to be "heavy" while the Atlantic refineries are set up to handle light grades.
There are 21 refineries in Canada producing a full range of oil products. The table below presents Statistics Canada data regarding the major product categories, the principal use for each type of product and the portion of demand for crude oil that each category represents:
- motor gasoline - for cars and light trucks 42%
- diesel fuel - for highway trucks or trains 22%
- heavy fuel oil - for large institutional/industrial heating 7%
- aviation fuel - for aircraft 6%
- light fuel oil - for home heating 6%
- other products - such as lubricating oils, greases, asphalt and
petrochemical feedstocks 17%
Refineries can alter their operations to process crude oils of different compositions within bounds, as well as different product mixes. For example, in the winter, refineries produce less motor gasoline and more light fuel oil for home heating.
Canadian refineries vary in capacity from 3,600 to 237,500 barrels per day. Most refineries are owned by integrated oil companies that have their own producing wells. Some, including two of the three refineries serving New Brunswick, are owned by companies that only have "downstream" operations: marketing and distribution networks including retail outlets.
Most of Canada's refiners have reciprocal exchange agreements in place. Under these arrangements, companies such as Shell or Petro-Canada that have no refining capacity in Atlantic Canada may trade product on a litre for litre basis with, for example, Imperial Oil which does have an Atlantic refinery. In exchange for supplying product in Atlantic Canada, Imperial Oil would have access to an equivalent volume of product in some other region where it does not have a refinery.
Refiners sell to retail gasoline dealers and other oil products distributors either directly from storage tanks at their refinery or through distribution terminals. Refined oil products like gasoline are typically transported to distribution terminals by either marine tanker or pipelines. In Atlantic Canada, all terminals are serviced by marine tanker. Highway truck tankers then transport gasoline from the terminal or refinery truck loading facilities (referred to as "racks") to underground storage tanks at each retail outlet. According to NR Can data, the cost of converting crude oil into motor fuel and delivering it to retailers declined from 12.3˘ per litre on average for Canada in 1991 to 7.5˘ per litre in 1995. This cost component has dropped from 22% of the retail price to 14%.
C. Retail Sector
Oil refiners make their product available to consumers through a variety of distributors and retail formats. Retail outlets vary in terms of:
- ownership - outlets may be owned by integrated oil companies, refiners, independent business people or chain retailers.
- operation - outlets can be operated by their owner, staff directly employed by the owner, or leased to an operator.
- selling arrangement for gasoline - some retailers purchase and resell gasoline and as such have input into the retail price. Some outlets, even those which are independently owned, sell gasoline on a commission basis and their supplier owns the gasoline until it is pumped into the consumer's vehicle. Where these arrangements are in place, the retailer is not involved in the price setting process. During a price war, suppliers may switch "buy sell" retailers to a commission system in order that they and not the retailer bear the cost of the price war. Unless the prevalence of commission arrangements is known, it is difficult to determine the extent to which suppliers are involved in the price setting process.
- use of brand - the majority of retailers operate under the brand of the integrated oil company or refiner that arranges for them to be supplied. Some independents operate under their own name or the name of the wholesaler that supplies them.
- ancillary services offered and degree of dependence on gasoline sales - a majority of outlets now generate substantial revenue from other lines of business such as a convenience store, restaurant, car wash or the traditional service bays.
Retail margins on average across Canada based on NR Can's survey of major centres, have decreased from 3.9˘ per litre to 2.9˘ per litre from 1991 to 1995. On average then, retailers realize 2.9˘ per litre to cover the costs of storing, pumping and marketing gasoline, pay credit card fees and make a profit.
The Canadian average price in 1995 based on the NR Can survey of major centres was 54.1˘ per litre.
D. The Structure of the New Brunswick Motor Fuel Industry
New Brunswick has approximately 683 retail gasoline outlets. The average throughput for New Brunswick outlets is estimated to be 1.36 million litres annually compared to a Canadian average of approximately 2 million litres. Exhibit 3 provides an estimated breakdown of retail outlets by brand and county. Over 60 percent of outlets operate under Irving or Imperial Oil brands. Less than 10% of outlets are classified as independents. Independent outlets are those which are not owned by an oil refiner or oil producer and also do not operate under the brand of an oil refiner or producer. New Brunswick has the second lowest percentage of such independent outlets in Canada.
Two refineries provide the majority of supply for the Province. The Irving refinery in Saint John services only Irving outlets. The majority of the other outlets, regardless of brand are supplied from the Imperial Oil refinery in Dartmouth. The Irving refinery is the largest in Canada with a capacity of 237,500 barrels of crude per day. The Imperial Oil refinery with a capacity of 82,200 barrels of crude per day is similar in size to the Canadian average. These refineries are able to access crude at prices comparable to the rest of Canada. Specific data on this is provided in Part IV.
No outlet in New Brunswick is very far from a wholesale terminal. There are "racks" (distribution terminals) in Saint John (Imperial Oil), Chatham (Ultramar) and Belledune (Shell) which generally serve all major brands other than Irving. The northwest corner of the Province receives some supply from the Ultramar refinery in St. Romuld Quebec. The transportation cost from Dartmouth to most outlets in New Brunswick including the cost of marine transport to the noted distribution terminals, is between 1˘ and 2˘ per litre. Transportation costs for outlets serviced by the Saint John refinery are generally less. Truck transport costs are estimated to be between .4˘ and .5˘ per litre per 100 kilometres.
Price levels in New Brunswick compared to the rest of Canada are examined in Part IV.
New Brunswick has the second lowest level of gasoline taxes in Canada at 24.4˘ per litre. The Canadian average is 28.2˘ per litre. Tax levels across the country as reported by Natural Resources Canada, in cents per litre as of August 1996 were as follows:
Tax Levels Across Canada
|Montreal, Quebec 34.2||Halifax, Nova Scotia 27.2|
|St. John's, Newfoundland 30.2||Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island 25.7|
|Vancouver, British Columbia 28.7||Winnipeg, Manitoba 25.2|
|Regina, Saskatchewan 28.7||Saint John, New Brunswick 24.4|
|Toronto, Ontario 28.4||Calgary, Alberta 22.7|
Exhibit 2 provides definitions of the key types of players in the New Brunswick gasoline business. In this report, the term refiner marketer is used to refer to both the integrated oil companies that have production, refining and marketing operations as well as those that only have refining and marketing operations.
The integrated oil companies active in New Brunswick are Imperial Oil, Shell and Petro-Canada. Metro is a brand owned by Imperial Oil.
In this report, the term refiner marketer is used to refer to both refiner marketers and the integrated oil companies. Where the term independent is used, the reference is to unbranded independents.
Refiner Marketers/Regional Refiners: These companies differ from the integrated oil companies only in that they do not have oil production operations. These firms purchase crude oil on the world market for their refining operations. The refiner marketers active in New Brunswick are Ultramar and Irving Oil. XL and Turbo are brands owned by Ultramar.
Branded Independents: These are independently owned gasoline marketers that own one or more outlets and purchase gasoline from a refiner marketer or an integrated oil company. These outlets operate under the brand of the refiner marketer or integrated oil company that supply them. These outlets generally have multi-year agreements with their supplier in which they agree to buy only from that supplier. The supplier often invests in signage, equipment or facility improvements in exchange for the long term purchasing commitment.
Unbranded Independents: These are independently owned gasoline marketers that own or supply one or more outlets and purchase gasoline from a refiner marketer or an integrated oil company. Neither they nor their customers operate under the brand of a refiner marketer or an integrated oil company. Canadian Tire, Wilson, Greg's and Daly's are examples of unbranded independents.
Exhibit 3 - outlets by Brand By County