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What we know about Alberta’s plan to buy thousands of oil tank cars

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In late November, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that within « a few weeks » her government would unveil its plan to buy thousands of railcars to help transport the province’s oil to market. 

Eight weeks later and the provincial government is still in negotiations with railway companies and suppliers. The latest update from Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd was only to say « it’s an ongoing conversation. »

The government says it needs the cars because there’s a backlog of oil in the province and a lack of pipeline space to export it.

With few details coming from the Notley government, here’s what we know — and don’t know — about its plan.

Total cost

The government hasn’t provided an estimated cost for buying the railcars, as negotiations are ongoing. It’s difficult to hazard a guess considering how few details are known about what the government is trying to acquire.

Notley has said Alberta needs to buy as many as 7,000 tank cars to meet its goal of shipping an additional 120,000 barrels of oil a day by train. She has also said that could include about 80 locomotives, with each train pulling 100 to 120 cars.

Workers prepare to start loading a tank car at an Altex Energy terminal. (Dave Rae/CBC)

Each tank car can hold nearly 700 barrels of oil.

The province likely won’t buy the cars, but instead lease them for between three and five years, which experts say is the industry standard.

The government also wants to sign agreements with railway companies and secure capacity to load oil in Alberta and unload the trains at destinations in North America.

Railcar shortage

Finding that many tank cars may prove difficult because of a shortage throughout North America.

In the third quarter of 2018, railcar manufacturers received orders for 11,000 new tankers, according to data from the Washington-based Railway Supply Institute (RSI). About 3,000 new cars were produced in that quarter and the backlog of orders now sits at about 31,000.

The shortage of tank cars is partly the result of Canada and the U.S. both transitioning away from the old model DOT-111 tank cars, which were involved in the deadly rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in 2013. The new standard is the TC-117 in Canada (DOT-117 in the U.S.), which features a thicker steel hull, thermal protection, and protective valve covers, among other safety features.

Premier Rachel Notley has said she’s disappointed with Ottawa’s lukewarm response to the province’s plan to ease oil bottlenecks by buying more railcars. (Canadian Press)

Some rail companies are also retrofitting the older tank cars to meet the new safety standards in North America.

« We’re seeing fairly strong demand over the last few quarters in terms of tank car manufacturing and retrofits, » RSI president Mike O’Malley said in an interview.

Premium price

The shortage is one reason why Alberta will likely have to pay a premium to secure the thousands of tank cars it wants.

One of North America’s largest railcar leasing companies said prices are increasing.

On a conference call with investors and analysts earlier this week, GATX executive Thomas Ellman said market lease rates for tank cars were up 25 to 50 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year.

Another factor driving up tank car prices has been an increase in the amount of crude shipped by rail in both Canada and the U.S.

Canada set several records in 2018 for shipping oil by train. (Dave Rae/CBC)

For eight straight months, Canada’s rail system set new records for crude volumes, according to the National Energy Board. The NEB’s most recent data is for November 2018, although recent statements from CN and CP Rail indicate crude-by-rail volumes have since dropped. 

In the U.S., volumes increased to more than 20 million barrels in October, but the numbers are still lower than in 2014, when oil prices were about $100 US per barrel and more than 35 million barrels were transported by rail, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

‘Insurance’ plan

The potential impact of the Alberta government’s railcar plan is debatable. The first railcars are only expected to arrive at the end of this year, with the bulk of them arriving in 2020.

By then, Alberta should have more space to export oil by pipeline, which is cheaper and faster compared to rail. Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, which runs from Alberta to southern Manitoba, is expected to be complete by December 2019, just as the first of the government’s railcars are expected to roll into the province.

« If that’s the case [with Line 3], we really don’t see a need for crude-by-rail volumes to continue to grow, » said Michael Dunn, an analyst for GMP FirstEnergy.

Considering delays that pipeline projects can face, Dunn said the government likely wanted to have backup measures in place in case Enbridge wasn’t able to get the pipeline up and running on time.

« I view their purchase as basically an insurance policy. »

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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