At least one industry watcher doubts the situation in the oilsands will come to the point where ongoing projects are shuttered.

A new report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency suggests growth in the oilsands could slow down or come to a complete standstill once projects now under construction are built.

While Robert Skinner with the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy acknowledges Alberta won't see a surge in new projects if low prices persist, he points out companies have invested a lot of money in the oilsands.

"To shut down a SAG-D project, a steam project or shut down a mine is a huge technical undertaking, extremely costly, he said. "So operators will have to make that bet. Is this going to be for 20 or 10 to 15 years or a long time?"

Maintenance

He says a lot of money will continue to be spent in Alberta as companies service and maintain their infrastructure.

"There are $300- [or] $400-billion worth of stuff that have been put in the ground, on the ground in terms of upgraders and mines, and steam plants and all that stuff needs to be replaced, maintained," he said.

"So there's a huge workforce and billions of dollars being spent every year maintaining that manufacturing industry, because that's what it is."