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Exxon Casts Out Canadian Oil Sands in Massive Reserves Slump

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Cushing Storage Terminal

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Exxon Mobil Corp. erased almost every drop of oil-sands crude from its books in a sweeping revision of worldwide reserves to depths never before seen in the company’s modern history.

Exxon counted the equivalent of 15.2 billion barrels of reserves as of Dec. 31, down from 22.44 billion a year earlier, according to a regulatory filing on Wednesday. The company’s reserves of the dense, heavy crude extracted from Western Canada’s sandy bogs dropped by 98%.

In practical terms, the revision clipped Exxon’s future growth prospects until oil prices rise, costs slide or technological advances make it profitable to drill those fields. Exxon has enough reserves to sustain current production levels for 11 years, down from 15.5 years a year ago, based on Bloomberg calculations.

Reserve Rout

Exxon’s reserves plunged 32% to the lowest in modern history in 2020

Source: Company filings, Bloomberg

The pandemic-driven price crash that rocked global energy markets was the main driver of Exxon’s reserve downgrade, along with internal budget cuts that took out a significant portion of its U.S. shale assets. The oil sands have historically been among the company’s higher-cost operations, making them more vulnerable to removal when oil prices foundered.

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