Oil at the End of Profit: Equity, Debt and the Obligation of Return

Caura Wood

The sea change shift to horizontal and multistage fracking that now characterize oil and gas resource plays in Alberta, Canada, was often made possible by considerable corporate debt. Where banks formerly served as a reliable source of funding alongside equity, the current turn in commodity prices has forced a retraction in bank lines of credit along with the imagined futures of most corporate employees and shareholders. The paper explores the shifting narratives among oil executives that are now engaged in bitter battles over the claims to remaining oil wealth as they

reconstitute their oil and gas reserves from those of “shareholder’s equity” to those of “bank debt collateral”. The paper foregrounds the social process of disentanglement of energy corporations from their insider and founding shareholders (relationships often formed through gift-like economies), replaced by new forms of entanglement with bankers that increasingly act as the new co-managers of oil and gas assets as corporations head toward forced liquidation. The paper brings forward the corporate lives and corporate forms that shape daily oil production in central Alberta and the contested ethics of obligation over how oil wealth is dispersed.