Economy of Alberta

Economy of Alberta

Alberta's economy is one of the strongest in Canada, supported by the burgeoning petroleum industry and, to a lesser extent, agriculture and technology. The per capita GDP in 2007 was by far the highest of any province in Canada at C$74,825 (approx. US$74,000). In 2006 Alberta's per capita GDP was higher than all US states, and one the highest figures in the world . Alberta's per capita GDP in 2007 was 61% higher than the Canadian average of C$46,441 and more than twice that of some of the Atlantic provinces. in 2006, the deviation from the national average was the largest for any province in Canadian history. [Cite web| url= |author= Statistics Canada | authorlink= Statistics Canada | title= The Alberta economic Juggernaught:The boom on the rose| month= September |year= 2006| accessdate=2007-02-02]

The Calgary-Edmonton Corridor is the most urbanized region in the province and one of the densest in Canada. Measured from north to south, the region covers a distance of roughly 400 kilometres. In 2001, the population of the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor was 2.15 million (72% of Alberta's population).cite web|url=|title=Calgary-Edmonton corridor|work=Statistics Canada, 2001 Census of Population|date=2003-01-20|accessdate=2007-03-22] It is also one of the fastest growing regions in the country. A 2003 study by TD Bank Financial Group found the corridor is the only Canadian urban centre to amass a U.S level of wealth while maintaining a Canadian-style quality of life, offering universal health care benefits. The study found GDP per capita in the corridor was 10% above average U.S. metropolitan areas and 40% above other Canadian cities at that time.Fact|date=August 2008

According to the Fraser Institute, Alberta has very high levels of economic freedom. It is by far the most free economy in Canada, [Cite web| url= | title= Alberta Rated as Best Investment Climate | author= The Fraser Institute | authorlink= Fraser Institute| year= 2006| month= November | accessdate= 2007-03-02] and is rated as the 2nd most free economy of U.S. states and Canadian provinces. [Cite web| url= | title= Economic Freedom of North America 2008 Annual Report| author= The Fraser Institute | authorlink= Fraser Institute| year= 2008| accessdate= 2008-08-01 ISBN 0-88975-213-3]


Alberta's economy is a highly developed one in which most people work in services such as healthcare, government, or retail. Primary industries are also of great impotance, however.

According to Alberta Venture magazine's list of the 50 largest employers in the province, the largest employers are: [ [ Alberta Venture 50 Largest Employers 2007] ]



Alberta is the largest producer of conventional crude oil, synthetic crude, natural gas and gas products in the country. Alberta is the world’s 2nd largest exporter of natural gas and the 4th largest producer. [ [ State of Alaska - Trade Report on Alberta] ] Two of the largest producers of petrochemicals in North America are located in central and north central Alberta. In both Red Deer and Edmonton, world class polyethylene and vinyl manufacturers produce products shipped all over the world, and Edmonton's oil refineries provide the raw materials for a large petrochemical industry to the east of Edmonton.

The Athabasca Oil Sands (sometimes known as the Athabasca Tar sands) have estimated non-conventional oil reserves approximately equal to the conventional oil reserves of the rest of the world, estimated to be convert|1.6|Toilbbl. With the development of new extraction methods such as steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), which was developed in Alberta, bitumen and synthetic crude oil can be produced at costs close to those of conventional crude. Many companies employ both conventional strip mining and non-conventional in situ methods to extract the bitumen from the oil sands. With current technology and at current prices, about convert|315|Goilbbl of bitumen are recoverable. Fort McMurray, one of Canada's fastest growing cities, has grown enormously in recent years because of the large corporations which have taken on the task of oil production. As of late 2006 there were over $100 billion in oil sands projects under construction or in the planning stages in northeastern Alberta.

Another factor determining the viability of oil extraction from the Tar Sands is the price of oil. The oil price increases since 2003 have made it more than profitable to extract this oil, which in the past would give little profit or even a loss.

With concerted effort and support from the provincial government, several high-tech industries have found their birth in Alberta, notably patents related to interactive liquid crystal display systems. [ [ Interactive display system] - US Patent U.S. Patent No. 5,448,263; [ U.S. Patent for Touch Sensitive Technology] - SMART Technologies] With a growing economy, Alberta has several financial institutions dealing with civil and private funds.


Oil and gas

Since the early 1940s, Alberta had supplied oil and gas to the rest of Canada and the United States. The Athabasca River region produces oil for internal and external use. The Athabasca Oil Sands contain the largest proven reserves of oil in the world outside Saudi Arabia. Natural gas has been found at several points, and in 1999, the production of natural gas liquids (ethane, propane, and butanes) totalled convert|172.8|Moilbbl, valued at $2.27 billion. Alberta also provides 13% of all the natural gas used in the United States.

Notable gas reserves were discovered in the 1883 near Medicine Hat. [ Alberta Energy: Energy Facts ] ] The town of Medicine Hat began using gas for lighting the town, and suppling light and fuel for the people, and a number of industries using the gas for manufacturing. In fact a large glassworks was established at Redcliff. When Rudyard Kipling visited Medicine Hat he described it as the city "with all hell for a basement".

Basic statistics

* In 2003, Alberta produced convert|629|koilbbl/d of conventional light, medium, and heavy crude, plus an additional convert|142|koilbbl/d of pentanes plus used for blending with heavy crude oil and bitumen to facilitate its transportation through pipelines. [Government of Alberta. [ Energy Overview] ]
* Alberta exports over convert|1|Moilbbl/d of oil to US markets accounting for 10 per cent of US oil imports.
* The conventional oil resource is estimated to have approximately convert|1.6|Goilbbl of remaining established reserves.
*Conventional crude oil production (not including oil sands and pentanes plus) represented 38.6% of Alberta ’s total crude oil and equivalent production and 25.5% of Canada’s total crude oil and equivalent production.
*Alberta's oil sands reserve is considered to be one of the largest in the world, containing convert|1.6|Toilbbl of bitumen initially in place. Of this total, convert|174.5|Goilbbl are considered to be remaining established reserves, recoverable using current technology under present and anticipated economic conditions. To date, about 2% of the initial established resource has been produced.
* In 2003, total crude bitumen production in Alberta averaged convert|964|koilbbl/d.
* Disposition of Alberta ’s total crude oil and equivalent production in 2003 was approximately::* 62% to the United States:* 24% within Alberta:* 14% to the rest of Canada
* In 2003, Alberta produced convert|4.97|Tcuft of marketable natural gas.
* The average Albertan household uses convert|135|GJ of natural gas a year.
* Over 80 per cent of Canada’s natural gas production is from Alberta.
* In 2006, Alberta consumed convert|1.45|Tcuft of natural gas. The rest was exported across Canada and to the United States.
* Royalties to Alberta from natural gas and its byproducts are larger than royalties from crude oil and bitumen.
* In 2006, there were 13,473 successful natural gas wells drilled in Alberta: 12,029 conventional gas wells and 1,444 coalbed methane wells
* There may be up to convert|500|Tcuft of coalbed methane in Alberta, although it is unknown how much of this gas might be recoverable.
* Alberta has one of the most extensive natural gas systems in the world as part of its energy infrastructure, with convert|39000|km of energy related pipelines.


Coal has been mined in Alberta since the late 1800s. Over 1800 mines have operated in Alberta since then.

The coal industry was vital to the early development of several communities, especially those in the foothills and along deep river valleys where coal was close to the surface.

Alberta is still a major coal producer, every two weeks Alberta produces enough coal to fill the Sky Dome in Toronto. Much of that coal is burned in Alberta for electricity generation. Alberta uses over 25 million tonnes of coal annually to generate electricity. Alberta has vast coal resources and 70 per cent of Canada's coal reserves are located in Alberta. This amounts to 33.6 Gigatonnes.

Vast beds of coal are found extending for hundreds of miles, a short distance below the surface of the plains. The coal belongs to the Cretaceous beds, and while not so heavy as that of the Coal Measures in England is of excellent qualityFact|date=June 2008. In the valley of the Bow River, alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway, valuable beds of anthracite coal are still worked. The usual coal deposits of the are of bituminous or semi-bituminous coal. These are largely worked at Lethbridge in southern Alberta and Edmonton in the centre of the province. Many other parts of the province have pits for private use.


As of June 2007, Alberta's generating capacity was 11,919 MW, and Alberta has about convert|21000|km of transmission lines.

Alberta has over 490 megawatts of wind power capacity. Alberta has added 4400 MW of new supply since 1998 – that's equal to all the power generated in Saskatchewan. Winter peak for power use in one day was in November 2006 – 9,661 MW. Summer peak for power use in one day was set on July 18, 2007 – 9,192 MW.

Mineral mining

Building stones mined in Alberta include Rundle stone, and Paskapoo sandstone.

Diamonds were first found in Alberta in 1958, and many stones have been found since, although to date no large-scale mines have been developed..


The Edmonton area, and in particular Nisku is a major centre for manufacturing oil and gas related equipment. As well Edmonton's refinery row is home to a petrochemical industry.


Several companies and services in the biotech sector are clustered around the University of Alberta, for example ColdFX.

Food processing

Owing to the strength of agriculture, food processing was one a major part of the economies of Edmonton and Calgary, but this sector has increasingly moved to smaller centres such as Brooks, the home of Lakeside Packers.


Edmonton is a major distribution centre for northern communities, hence the nickname "Gateway to the North". Edmonton is one CN Rail's most important hubs. Calgary is the main hub for the WestJet airline, and an important centre for CP Rail.

Agriculture and forestry

In the past, cattle, horses, and sheep were reared in the southern prairie region on ranches or smaller holdings. Currently Alberta produces cattle valued at over $3.3 billion, as well as other livestock in lesser quantities. In this region irrigation is widely used. Wheat, accounting for almost half of the $2 billion agricultural economy, is supplemented by canola, barley, rye, sugar beets, and other mixed farming.

Agriculture has a significant position in the province's economy. Over three million cattle are residents of the province at one time or another, [ [$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/rsb11006 Alberta Livestock Inspections - August 2006] - Alberta Government, Department of Agriculture] and Albertan beef has a healthy worldwide market. Nearly one half of all Canadian beef is produced in Alberta. Alberta is one of the prime producers of plains buffalo (bison) for the consumer market. Sheep for wool and mutton are also raised.

Wheat and canola are primary farm crops, with Alberta leading the provinces in spring wheat production, with other grains also prominent. Much of the farming is dryland farming, often with fallow seasons interspersed with cultivation. Continuous cropping (in which there is no fallow season) is gradually becoming a more common mode of production because of increased profits and a reduction of soil erosion. Across the province, the once common grain elevator is slowly being lost as rail lines are decreased and farmers now truck the grain to central points.

Alberta is the leading beekeeping province of Canada, with some beekeepers wintering hives indoors in specially designed barns in southern Alberta, then migrating north during the summer into the Peace River valley where the season is short but the working days are long for honeybees to produce honey from clover and fireweed. Hybrid canola also requires bee pollination, and some beekeepers service this need.

The vast northern forest reserves of softwood allow Alberta to produce large quantities of lumber, oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood, and several plants in northern Alberta supply North America and the Pacific Rim nations with bleached wood pulp and newsprint.

In 1999, lumber products from Alberta were valued at $4.1 billion of which 72% were exported around the world. Since forests cover approximately 59% of the province's land area, the government allows about convert|23.3|e6m3 to be harvested annually from the forests on public lands.


Despite the high profile of the extractive industries, Alberta has a mature economy and most people work in services.


Calgary is head office for many major oil and gas related companies, and many financial service business have grown up around them.

Edmonton is the headquarters of the only major Canadian banks west of Toronto: Canadian Western Bank, and ATB Financial.


Despite Alberta's reputation as a "small government" province, many health care and education professionals are lured to Alberta from other provinces by the higher wages the Alberta government is able to offer because of oil revenues.

ee also

* Economy of Lethbridge
* Canadian Oil Patch, for the petroleum industry
* History of the petroleum industry in Canada


External links

* [ CBC Digital Archives - Striking Oil in Alberta]

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