Alberta is Canada's largest hydrocarbon processing region, and due to recent shifts in global energy and economic dynamics, it's also one of the world's most attractive locations for chemical, petrochemical, oil and gas investment. The province offers global industry leaders abundant and competitively-priced feedstock, political and fiscal stability, and positioning for easy export to Asia as well as the United States.
Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA) is dedicated to promoting and coordinating long-term sustainable development of the region. This non-profit organization represents five municipalities within the economic zone – including the counties of Lamont, Strathcona, Sturgeon, and the Cities of Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan.
AIHA actively promotes Alberta to global industry leaders and investors. At the same time, the association also works to enable the infrastructure required for sustainable development, from land use and transportation systems to environmental monitoring and social networks.
When investors are considering billion-dollar decisions to locate operations in one region versus another, they conduct extensive due diligence research. AIHA plays a major role in providing them with information about Alberta's advantages.
"Industry investors are becoming more sophisticated," said Neil Shelly, Executive Director of AIHA. "We have to go to them nowadays with detailed, authoritative information showing that we understand their business and their critical objectives, and that the assets in our region are well aligned with their needs."
In 2012, AIHA's leaders wanted to gain perspective on Alberta's competitive position so they teamed with Chemical Consulting. They asked IHS Markit to help them gain new insights into how the region's strengths are aligned with chemical industry projects, identify its best investment opportunities and build business cases to educate the market.
Leveraging Third-Party Insight, Credibility
Though studies and reports were already available regarding Alberta's potential, AIHA engaged IHS Markit to get a focused, in-depth analysis from independent experts in the chemicals business who know how it ought to be integrated with upstream oil and gas operations.
"AIHA has a lot of local and technical knowledge," Shelly said. "But we needed a sharper understanding of market trends and our region's competitiveness on a global scale. The third-party credibility and reputation of IHS Markit worldwide was one key reason that we selected them. IHS Markit also has the bench strength to deliver an ambitious study in a timely manner and provide the information that's going to resonate with our audience."
The business cases from IHS Markit are probably the best educational tools we have for our region, allowing us to bring investors up to speed and open a discussion of how Alberta is uniquely qualified to meet their needs... We had 11 different foreign investors visit the region, about half of them came back a second time.
Making the Case for Alberta Investment
Advances in the development of shale resources are transforming not only the global energy markets, but also related industries, including chemicals. Nearly $1.9 trillion in cumulative capital investments are expected in the US between 2010 and 20351 and global investors are eagerly seeking opportunities in other parts of North America with rich shale feedstock.
Drawing on knowledge of Alberta and global markets, IHS Markit collaborated with AIHA to rank various investment opportunities in the region. Chemical's consultants identified Alberta's greatest strengths and where they best intersect global market demands – uncovering the region's four most competitive products: ethylene, propylene, nitrogen-based fertilizers, and methanol.
AIHA gained a clear picture of the more attractive projects and IHS Markit followed with extensive business cases on each of the chemical products. Each business case report addresses key factors that AIHA and potential investors would need to help advance their decisions – including feedstock volume and value, supply and demand in key target markets, trade and price forecasts, capital and operating costs estimates, competitiveness and projected profitability.
"The business cases from IHS Markit are probably the best educational tools we have for our region, allowing us to bring investors up to speed and open a discussion of how Alberta is uniquely qualified to meet their needs," Shelly said.
Reaching Investors, Enabling Decisions
AIHA also obtained business intelligence from IHS Markit that enabled the association to target new investors more effectively. IHS Markit analysts researched 50 global petrochemical companies and showed AIHA which ones are involved in the four products that appear most promising for Alberta, as well as which companies are in an expansionary mode so they might be more likely to invest in the Industrial Heartland.
Throughout the due diligence process, AIHA continues to use the business cases to help investors decide whether to move forward with their own research. An investor may initially express interest in manufacturing one product – say methanol – and AIHA may be able use the case studies to show that other products, such as propylene, are also worth consideration.
As an investment decision progresses, AIHA often provides information to additional stakeholders and decision-makers both inside and outside of the company. For example, AIHA plays an advisory role in regional land use planning and infrastructure projects, sharing information and facilitating communications between potential investors and local municipalities.
"Our estimates of what can happen here in Alberta over the next 10 to 20 years are more focused now. Armed with accurate data from IHS Markit about what's happening with global petrochemical investment trends, we have a much clearer picture and can make the right preparations to receive that type of substantial investment," Shelly said.
Generating Unprecedented Interest
In 2013, AIHA worked with nearly a dozen companies – both major names and mid-tier movers – that are actively exploring opportunities for investment in Alberta's Industrial Heartland. Companies from Asia and developing countries were at the forefront. In response, AIHA hired a new business development manager to handle the increased interest.
"Last year was probably the busiest year we've had yet in terms of discussions with investors," Shelly said. "As a result of the growing opportunity, and assisted by the business cases from IHS Markit, we had 11 different foreign investors visit the region and about half of them came back a second time."
Based on its proven success working with the Chemical Consulting team, AIHA plans to update the business cases to ensure they are aligned with the fast-moving state of the industry and growing investment opportunities.
1The Economic and Employment Contributions of Shale Gas in the United States Global Insight study commissioned by America's Natural Gas Alliance