Alberta minister says upgrader talks uncertain

* Minister says talks on joint venture plan ongoing

* No indication negotiations will be successful

CALGARY, Alberta, July 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Negotiations between
Alberta’s government and a joint venture seeking to process
bitumen paid to the province in lieu of cash royalties may not
yield an agreement, the province’s energy minister said on
Wednesday.

A joint venture between Canadian Natural Resources Ltd
(CNQ.TO: ), Canada’s No. 2 oil and gas company, and Northwest
Upgrading Inc is in exclusive talks with the province to build
a multibillion-dollar upgrader to convert the tar-like bitumen
into diesel fuel and other products.

The Alberta government is seeking to spur value-added
processing of the province’s oil sands production, despite thin
margins for the final products, which have convinced many oil
companies to export bitumen directly to refiners rather than
building expensive upgraders.

However, the province said it has not yet committed to back
the joint venture as it mulls whether it wants to involve
itself in project it would normally leave to private sector
investors.

“We’ve had some pretty intense negotiations with … (the)
partnership,” Energy Minister Ron Liepert told reporters. “I
think we are proceeding favorably but it’s going to be a very
difficult decision.”

Liepert said the province believes profits from upgrading
bitumen are likely to be weak for the long term. However it
believes construction of a new upgrader would create jobs and
boost tax revenue.

Should the negotiations with the upgrading venture fail,
Liepert said Alberta could also choose to sell its royalty
bitumen on the open market.
(Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson)

Alberta minister says upgrader talks uncertain