Premier Kathy Dunderdale was enthusiastic Tuesday morning coming off a week in China talking up natural resource investment and the province’s offshore oil and gas industry.
Dunderdale said the Newfoundland and Labrador delegation covered a lot of different files in the past week, and she’s excited about the prospect of additional investment in the province’s offshore oil industry.
Dunderdale had meetings with Sinopec and the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) about investment in the province’s offshore oil industry — especially the three newly discovered basins off Labrador.
“Both of those companies — but particularly CNOOC — expressed significant interest in the offshore data particularly that we brought with us,” Dunderdale said.
“That’s why you do these kinds of trade missions; you have to get on their radar. And we wanted to get on their radar. We knew that we had to be well-prepared when we came. This is very serious business. There’s competition coming from all over the world for those investment dollars.”
Just before she left, speaking at the Noia oil and gas conference, Dunderdale talked about the need to change the way the province’s offshore regulator sells land parcels — offering smaller parcels and giving more time for potential bidders to study exploration data in order to decide whether to make a bid.
Dunderdale said those factors, and increased interest from Chinese investors, means the potential for more competition in the offshore.
“We really value ExxonMobil, Chevron, Suncor, all the players in our offshore, but it’s extremely important to us that we attract other players to our offshore. Competition will work extremely well for the people of the province,” she said. “We’re talking about a different land tenure regime where we put up smaller blocks of land, where we have more companies bidding, which will bode well for the people of the province, and we’ll get a better a result — that will really be a good thing for Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Chinese investment has been controversial in other parts of the country. When CNOOC bought Canadian oil company Nexen for $15.1 billion last year, national security concerns were raised over a Chinese state-owned company being so heavily involved in the oilpatch.
But Dunderdale said Chinese companies would be playing by the same rules as everyone else.
“If China decided to become involved in our offshore, there’s nothing to stop any Chinese company from engaging in a bid or partnering with other companies already active in the offshore now,” she said. “In fact, all the companies that are operational in our offshore are here talking to Chinese investors. In terms of, you know, the global economy, everybody is engaged with China because you can’t afford not to be.”
Dunderdale said the trip was primarily arranged by the provincial government, with help from the federal government and the embassy in China.
In addition to the natural resource talks, the delegation dealt with educational issues — 38 per cent of international students at Memorial University are Chinese — and the seal hunt.
Dunderdale said preparation for this trade mission has been going on for two years.
In addition to university officials and people from the provincial government, Nalcor representatives were part of the delegation. There were also representatives from Alderon Iron Ore Corp., the Fur Institute of Canada and Vogue Furriers as part of the province’s delegation.