Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier Donna Harpauer, with the 2023-24 budget. Government of Saskatchewan photo

Pipeline Online poured through the budget to dig up everything applicable to the energy sector in Saskatchewan

REGINA – A billion dollar surplus is expected in the 2023-34 budget, released on March 22, and oil and potash will go a long way in supporting that.

Total revenue of $19.7 billion forecast in the 2023-24 budget is up $2.5 billion, or 14.7 per cent, from last year’s budget. There are no new tax increases and no new taxes in the budget.

The budget, released by Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Donna Harpauer, stated, “Saskatchewan’s economy is estimated to have grown by 4.8 per cent in 2022 and the momentum is expected to continue in 2023. Private sector forecasts have Saskatchewan achieving the highest and the second highest economic growth among the provinces in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

“Saskatchewan’s strong economy is largely driven by elevated commodity prices, particularly for potash and oil, solid job growth, increased investment and a rebound in crop production from the widespread drought of 2021”

“Taxation revenue is forecast to be $9.6 billion in 2023-24, up $1.5 billion over last year’s budget, or 19.0 per cent, primarily due to higher Corporate Income Tax revenue. Non-renewable resource revenue is forecast to be $3.3 billion, up $434.5 million or 14.9 per cent over last year’s budget, largely driven by higher potash and oil price expectations,” the budget said. “Total expense of $18.7 billion is up $1.0 billion, or 5.9 per cent, from last year’s budget.”

Ministry of Finance

This year, 12.5 per cent of spending will come from natural resource revenues, according to the budget.

However, the budget is expecting oil prices to fall back for both oil, and more substantially, potash, this upcoming year.

Ministry of Finance

 

To that end, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is budgeted to average US$79.50 per barrel, about US$9 above current prices. That’s also down substantially from the US$90.67 forecast for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023. Each dollar above that up means an increase of $16 million in revenue, and correspondingly, each dollar below that means a drop of $16 million in revenue. Oil and natural gas and helium royalties are expected to make up five per cent of provincial revenue, at $963 million, behind potash at seven per cent, or $1.376 billion. Notably, this is the first time that Pipeline Online is aware of where helium royalties have been referenced in a budget, an indication of the growth in the emerging helium sector.

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The resource surcharge has grown to an expected $823 million. That’s up 66.9 per cent from last year’s budget. This is primarily reflecting continued strength in commodity prices in 2023-24 and a positive prior-year adjustment.

The differential between WTI and Western Canadian Select is expected to open up, from 12.7 per cent in 2021-21, a forecast of 19.3 per cent in 2022-23, to 23.8 per cent in 2023-24. That would make it US$52.63 per barrel, which is real close to the US$55.27 the afternoon of the budget.

The province attributes the recent dip in oil prices primarily to some of the concerns around the banking sector in the United States and Europe. But the expected completion of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, now schedule for late 2023, is anticipated to improve takeaway capacity over the medium term.

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Oil production

Oil production is expected to increase slightly, from a forecast of 167.2 million barrels (458,082 barrels per day) to 170.5 million barrels (467,123 barrels per day). That production number is consistent with the general trend of relatively flat production for most of the past 20 years, with a slight peak of 536,619 barrels per day in December, 2014, just as the oil downturn hit.

Apparently memories are short when it comes to remembering peak production, as the budget stated, “Saskatchewan’s oil well drilling and production continues to grow back to pre-pandemic levels, In December 2022, an average of 451,000 barrels per day (bpd) was produced, up from the pandemic low of 361,000 bpd in May 2020, but still below the peak of 502,000 bpd in March 2020. There were 1,483 oil wells drilled in Saskatchewan in 2022.”

Growth in production

“Saskatchewan is on track to meet Growth Plan goals for the year 2030 of increasing annual potash sales to $9.0 billion – a target the sector doubled in 2022 – and increasing uranium sales to $2.0 billion. The Growth Plan also includes doubling the size of the forestry industry and increasing oil production to 600,000 barrels per day by 2030.”

However, much of that growth to 600,000 bpd is expected in the last few years of the decade, as the outlook is for oil production continue to grow to reach 510,000 barrels per day by ‘26-‘27.

The budget said, “Oil production in 2026-27 is forecast at 186.2 million barrels, representing an average increase of 2.3 per cent per year over the forecast period.”

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Drilling rigs for used for commercial geothermal drilling will now be exempt from PST, providing consistency with the PST treatment of drilling rigs involved in other drilling activities.

Geopolitical

The rally in oil prices last year was a direct reflection of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil exporter, which then came under international sanctions. To that end, the budget noted, “Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is expected to continue to place upward pressure on many energy, fertilizer, minerals/metals, and agri-food commodities prices in 2023.”

“The current global forecast expects a return to healthy growth levels in 2024 following a modest slowdown in 2023. There are some risks to this outlook. Expanded geopolitical tensions could cause further disruption to commodity markets and trade relationships.

Persistently high inflation may lead to further interest rate hikes and add to already high debt burden in many economies.”

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Dollar exchange and economics

“The Canadian dollar averaged 76.9 US cents in 2022 compared to 79.8 US cents in 2021. Weaker growth prospects may lower the performance of the Canadian dollar in 2023. Therefore, the Canadian dollar is expected to average 74.0 US cents in 2023. With better economic prospects over the medium term, the exchange rate is anticipated to rise back to an average of 77.1 US cents per year from 2024 to 2027.”

Saskatchewan’s real GDP is estimated to have expanded by 4.8 per cent in 2022 ($86.4 billion), a substantial turnaround from a 0.9 per cent decline caused by the historic drought in 2021. The 2022 expansion is well above the historical average annual growth rate of 1.2 per cent which took real GDP from about $76.7 billion in 2011 to $82.5 billion in 2021.

Interest rates and labour

“The (Bank of Canada) BoC has increased interest rates from 0.25 per cent in March 2022 to 4.5 per cent in January 2023. The effects of these interest rate hikes are expected to moderate consumer spending and business investment in 2023. Higher interest rates are also expected to moderate the demand for labour in 2023 and ease pressure from the current historically tight labour market.”

Debt

In this budget, gross taxpayer-supported debt is forecast to be $18.1 billion at March 31, 2024, $409.4 million lower than forecast at third quarter, and $2.8 billion lower than forecast in last year’s budget.

Taxpayer-supported debt is operating debt and capital debt for Executive Government, and is forecast to be lower this year largely due to up to $1.0 billion in operating debt repayment planned for 2023-24, offset by new borrowing needed for capital investment.

In this budget, gross self-supporting debt for Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) is expected to increase to $12.8 billion at March 31, 2024, up from $12.0 billion forecast at third quarter of 2022-23 and $11.7 billion forecast in last year’s budget.

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Inflation

“While still a concern, inflation started to ease in the last quarter of 2022, and is expected to continue to decrease in 2023 and return to the Bank of Canada’s target rate of 2.0 per cent over the medium-term.”

“Although still at an elevated level, inflation in Canada has started to ease from its 2022 peak as a result of lower energy prices, improvements in global supply chains and the effects of higher interest rates. The trend of easing inflation is expected to continue in 2023; however, inflation is expected to remain above the Bank of Canada (BoC) target rate of 2.0 per cent. Beyond 2023, inflation is expected to return to levels more consistent with the BoC target.”

Critical minerals

“The 2023-24 Budget builds on Saskatchewan’s position as a global leader in the exploration and mining of critical minerals. Saskatchewan has occurrences of 23 of the 31 critical minerals on the Canadian Critical Minerals List, including many world class deposits.”

To that end, the Ministry of Energy and Resources is enhancing existing programs to drive investment in Saskatchewan critical minerals exploration projects. The budget noted, “This budget commits $4.0 million to expand the Targeted Mineral Exploration Incentive, to include exploration drilling for all hard-rock minerals and increase the funding limit to support the development of these emerging commodities.

“The Saskatchewan Mineral Exploration Tax Credit has also been increased from 10.0 to 30.0 per cent to help attract additional mineral exploration investment in Saskatchewan. The increase makes Saskatchewan more competitive with British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec – jurisdictions with similar programs.”

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Saskatchewan residents can invest in mineral exploration activities within the province by purchasing eligible flow-through shares issued by approved mineral exploration companies. Flow-through shares allow mineral exploration companies to renounce or “flow through” expenses associated with their Saskatchewan exploration activities to investors, who can deduct the expenses in calculating their own taxable income.

The SMETC is a non-refundable Personal Income Tax (PIT) credit on those eligible exploration expenses. Investors can apply the credit against Saskatchewan PIT that would otherwise be payable for the taxation year in which the investment was made. The credit can be carried back three years and carried forward 10 years.

The SMETC is harmonized with the Government of Canada’s 15.0 per cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, as well as its 30.0 per cent Critical Minerals Exploration Tax Credit, which further increases the attractiveness for Saskatchewan residents investing in the mineral exploration sector.

The budget includes a $725,000 increase for the Ministry of Environment targeted to support the mining industry by undertaking an evaluation for improving the process for exploration permits and to reduce exiting wait times for mining and other sectors.

Small business taxation

The temporary small business tax rate reduction was extended in the summer of 2022, keeping the rate at 0 per cent. The rate will return to 1.0 per cent on July 1, 2023 and 2.0 per cent on July 1, 2024.

The extension helps approximately 31,000 Saskatchewan small businesses address challenges including inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and labour shortages. Total savings stemming from the small business rate reduction will be $435.0 million over five years (2020-21 to 2024-25).

The budget noted, “Saskatchewan small businesses will continue to have among the lowest small business tax rates in the country and the highest small business income threshold in Canada at $600,000.”

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If you get hurt near Weyburn

Weyburn is finally going to get a new hospital, as well as Prince Albert. Weyburn’s had seen considerable support from the oilpatch in community fundraising for the facility, but that construction has been put off several years until now. The $38 million this year will only cover the early stages of construction, as the construction of the Moose Jaw hospital several years ago cost well over $100 million.

Highways in the oilpatch

The road to Regina is going to get a bit easier, coming from southeast Saskatchewan. After several years of installing passing lanes throughout the province, the government is apparently now embarking on twinning program, finally, for Highways 6/39 from Regina to Corrine. Two sections will see construction – immediately south of the Regina Bypass, and at the Corrine curve. There has been preliminary work done in both of these areas last year.

Highway 39 west of Weyburn and between Midale and Macoun will see some “light preservation work.” Highway 22 from Stoughton to Fillmore will see “heavy preservation” work.

Highway 361 from Lampman west to Highway 47 will see medium preservation.

In northwest Saskatchewan, Highways 16 and 40 west of the Battlefords will see some light preservation work, while Highway 21 due south of Kindersley will see heavy preservation.

Highway 13 west of Shaunavon will see some light preservation work and Highway 37 just south of Shaunavon is slated for “medium preservation.”

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Trade

There’s $1.4 million in the budget to open a trade office in Germany. This follows on offices already established in United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, India, Singapore and China.

Training

“In this budget, there is $4.0 million to increase skilled trades training seats, primarily in construction related trades, and $1.2 million for increasing the Apprenticeship Training Allowance for students living away from home to attend training and for an anticipated increase in apprentices,” the budget said.

Crowns

In 2023-24, Crown corporations will invest $2.05 billion into major capital, including $1.151 billion by SaskPower to improve the province’s electricity system to meet demand and maintain reliability.

“This includes continued construction of the Moose Jaw Great Plains natural gas-fired electrical plant and upgrades to the EB Campbell hydroelectric station near Nipawin and to the Ermine natural gas-fired electrical plant near Kerrobert.”

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Notably, the capital plan going to 26-27 shows a consistent 1.3 billion per year for SaskPower. That’s an increase of roughly 250 million compared to 2022-23 budget, but it’s not indicative of any massive capital projects in that time frame until 2027 beyond the scale of the natural gas plant under construction currently.

“SaskEnergy is investing $341.2 million in the province’s natural gas distribution system, including expansion of the transmission system to meet increased demand in a growing province and ensure safe, reliable and affordable services to customers.

The next two years in the capital plan see that rising to $410 million per year before falling to $243 million four years out.

As for getting cell coverage in your truck, in this budget, SaskTel is spending $412.7 million “to improve its networks dedicated to being the best at connecting people to their world.

“Investments include continued deployment of fibre to rural customers and modernization through the rollout of SaskTel’s 5G network.”

 

Pipeline Online provides the in-depth coverage on energy issues in this province that no other media comes close to. However, with recent threats from Facebook to block news links, it’s important to follow Pipeline Online in other manners. The easiest is to check each morning at PipelineOnline.ca, with the top story posted at 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, and additional coverage throughout the day and weekend. But you can also follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can follow editor Brian Zinchuk online at LinkedIn as well (you’ll see more stories that way). Finally, you can subscribe to a weekly newsletter

 

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