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As U.S. Shuns Canadian Energy, Britain Seeks Stronger Ties

Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post

With Canada’s long-standing energy partnership with the United States at a low point over disagreements on pipelines, climate change and oil sands development, the British are as eager as ever to step in and strengthen ties.

As Europe reels from Moscow’s belligerence and utter dependence on its oil and gas supplies, the Harper government is positioning itself as a reliable partner ready to offer energy security to the continent.

In his first international assignment, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford was out in full force advertising the country’s formidable crude oil and natural gas resources to energy ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, U.K. and U.S. in Rome on Tuesday.

Michael Fallon, energy minister in David Cameron’s conservative government, was in Calgary Thursday to promote U.K./Canada energy cooperation — including learning from Canada’s “leadership” in carbon capture and storage, promoting more mutual investment and encouraging Canadian oil and gas exports to boost British and European energy security.

“Canada is a very important and a very welcome investor in our energy mix,” Mr. Fallon said in an interview during a day long-visit that included meetings with British companies active in Canada such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Centrica PLC, and Canadian companies active in the U.K. including Talisman Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

“There is huge potential [for Canadian companies] in the development of shale, in Canada there is a lot of gas that could contribute to a more stable international market in gas and Canada is at the top of everybody’s list of being a reliable supplier,” he said.

The visit came as energy security shot to the top of the European agenda because of Russian aggression in the Ukraine. During a meeting in Rome this week, G7 energy ministers showed interest in Canada as a major energy supplier to reduce their dependence on oil and gas imports from Russia.

“Ukraine for us — for the U.K. and the EU — is a wake-up,” Mr. Fallon said in a downtown Calgary coffee shop. “We have to look much more urgently at our own energy security. We got to encourage more indigenous sources of supply. We got to diversify our source of supply.”

The U.K has been a big oil producer from fields in the North Sea, but volumes have declined by 6% a year on average between 1999 and 2010 as fields matured and costs soared. While endowed with vast shale gas resources, there has been big pushback over fears about fracking technology and climate change.

The U.K. would welcome Canadian companies experienced in the technology to participate in development, Mr. Fallon said.

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