Oil and gas sector CEO compensation jumps double-digits amid surging profits

CEO pay in the oil and gas sector has soared with the industry’s post-pandemic resurgence and will likely increase even more with the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion this year, a new report projects.

The report released Wednesday by the Bedford Consulting Group looked at C-Suite salaries, bonuses and other forms of executive compensation at 143 North American oil and gas companies — 68 of which were headquartered in Canada.

It found that in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available, executive pay in the sector rose sharply.

That year, chief executives’ total compensation ranged from a median $425,255 at companies with total assets under $100 million to $16.6 million at companies with total assets topping $30 billion.

Five of the seven company asset tiers laid out in the report saw median CEO compensation rise by at least 20 per cent in 2022 from the year before.

In some cases, CEO compensation rose by as much as 75 per cent, the report found.

Global fears cause price spike

The increase in executive pay came as the oil and gas sector rebounded from years of downturn and low commodity prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 led to global fears about energy security, causing oil prices to spike.

Bedford managing partner Frank Galati attributed the increase in executive pay in 2022 to the industry’s “strong position,” as energy demand rebounded alongside a slew of new export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

In Canada, surging oil prices led a number of energy firms to report all-time record profits in 2022.

Some companies were also criticized by environmentalists and politicians for directing significant profits to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks, rather than prioritizing investments in decarbonization.

CEO pay to climb in 2024

While executive compensation data for the 2023 year is not yet publicly available, Bedford Consulting Group is already projecting that CEO pay will tick higher in 2024.

The Trans Mountain expansion project, which is 98 per cent complete, is expected to add over half a million barrels per day of Canadian oil export capacity.

Improved market access is expected to help narrow the Western Canada Select differential, the discount Canadian oil companies typically take on their product in part due to lack of export capacity.

Bedford said that as a result, it expects to see further increases in executive compensation in the Canadian oil and gas sector in the coming years.

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