By Rod Nickel and Devika Krishna Kumar
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The president of OPEC urged Canada on Tuesday to invest in infrastructure to move oil and gas, or risk watching investment flow away to the United States.
The Canadian government agreed in May to buy the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and a related expansion project from Kinder Morgan Canada for C$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion), highlighting the lengths deemed necessary to overcome stiff opposition to such projects.
Insufficient space in the country's oil pipelines has deepened the discount Canada's heavy crude can attract from U.S. refiners, compared with U.S. light oil futures.
"If you don't have the major infrastructure, investors are going to go to your neighbor, where infrastructure is not an issue," said Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries President Suhail al-Mazrouei. "Act and act quickly if you want to retain those investors. I am being frank because I want to be a true friend to the Canadians."
"I don't want them to lose opportunities."
Mazrouei was speaking in Calgary at a TD investor conference during the city's Stampede, an annual rodeo that is also the year's major meet and greet for Canada's energy sector.
Mazrouei, the United Arab Emirates' energy minister, also singled out Canada's low-priced natural gas. Much of it is produced in landlocked Alberta, and the country lacks a robust liquefied natural gas (LNG) export sector to consume it.
LNG Canada, a proposed C$40 billion export facility for the British Columbia coast, is being reviewed by its joint venture partners ahead of a final investment decision.
"The solution is LNG and pipelines to export that natural gas," Mazrouei said. "If you provide optionality for the gas, it's going to fix itself.”
(Reporting by Rod Nickel and Devika Krishna Kumar in Calgary, Alberta; Editing by Peter Cooney)