If 2012 was a difficult financial year for Petrolia Discovery, 2013 was not much better.
The Discovery Foundation’s board of directors held its Annual General Meeting for the 2013 year and revealed how deep the financial and technical problems were.
The operating deficit was actually lower than 2012 – the foundation was $25,667 in the red in 2013 compared to $39,721 the previous year. That was due mostly to $41,000 increase in donations to the site. General Manager Donna McIlmoyle says there were a number of large corporate donations and a number wished to remain anonymous.
The increase in donations was welcome since oil revenue plummeted again. In 2012, the oil pumped from the site generated $70,971 – in 2013 it generated only $29,646. That, say local oil producers is about one barrel of oil a day.
Earlier this year, local oil producers told The Independent about 25 barrels a month was being produced. With all 20 wells pumping, they believed Discovery should produce at least 250 barrels a month, generating between $200,000 and $250,000.
McIlmoyle says Discovery has struggled to get the wells repaired to produce at capacity. In September, the Fitzgerald Rig was up and running and all the wells were in working order, but she told about 50 people gathered at the annual general meeting all of the wells are not pumping yet because of a problem with a brine pond.
She said 2014’s oil production would be “significantly better” than 2013’s.
Without the oil revenue, the foundation had to reorganize finances. A $40,000 loan taken out in 2011 to payout the Black Gold Raffle was coming due and according to the foundation’s auditor only interest and about $1,600 in principal had been paid back because it didn’t have the cash flow to make loan payments.
There was also $55,000 outstanding to the Canada Revenue Agency for past due payroll payments.
Some of the financial problems have been stabilized with a $150,000, five-year loan from the Sarnia Lambton Business Development Corporation. That was negotiated between the foundation in May however the board did not want to discuss the details Monday since the annual general meeting was for the 2013.
“If the foundation is not able to pay that loan back, what happens,” asked Charlie Fairbank, one of the people who helped start Discovery.
“We have to follow a plan and it is checked monthly (by the development corporation). We did not sign over Discovery to anyone,” says McIlmoyle.
The board and the general manager were also not able to say how many people visited the site in 2013 since the board decided to allow admission on a donation basis instead a fee per person.
Outgoing chairperson Wendy Bratanek acknowledged 2013 had been another challenging year but said Discovery continues to run because of the people behind it.
“The volunteers and board continue to conserve and preserve the oil heritage of Lambton County,” she says.