The growing global energy security crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights the unique value of Canada’s oil sands to North America.
Along with stable and reliable supply to the sector is the joint commitment of virtually all oil sands producers to reduce total emissions and reach net zero by 2050 to help fight climate change.
“If I engage in the use of fossil fuels, and I do it every day, like almost everyone on the planet, I want to be sure I’m doing it in a way that minimizes the environment. impacts,” says Kevin Birn, head of greenhouse gas emissions coordination with financial analyst S&P Global.
Birn says true energy security must include adequacy, affordability and sustainability.
“Thanks to hydrocarbons, we enjoy the quality of life that we currently have. It’s everything from the roads we drive on, whatever your engine, to the plastic bags in hospitals for your IV. And you can’t just delete it.
“We are on a journey, and the destination matters. But for us to get to our destination, we actually have to be able to move the boat forward. »
Canadian oil sands producers are working to be at the bow of this boat for North America through the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero alliance.
Six companies representing 95% of oil sands production have set 10-year goals to achieve the equivalent of zero emissions by 2050.
It is “an out-of-the-box sustainable solution for the energy security of all of North America,” according to Alex Pourbaix, CEO of Cenovus Energy.
The United States needs a reliable, long-term oil supply
There is no doubt that the United States will need a significant amount of oil – and oil imports – for decades to come, even as more renewable energy comes online.
The latest outlook from the US Energy Information Administration projects that US consumption of petroleum products will increase by nearly two million barrels per day between 2021 and 2050. At the same time, US imports of crude oil will increase by about one million barrels per day. day.
The vast majority of US oil imports come from Canada. But with government actions like the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, that could change.
The Biden administration is in talks with countries like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran, rather than Canada, to increase production to replace banned barrels from Russia.
Oil Sands Pledge to Reduce Emissions
In Canada, the Pathways alliance has published scaling-up targets to reduce emissions to the equivalent of zero, which means that any emissions from production will be offset by emissions removed from the atmosphere.
In 2018, the six oil sands producers had combined emissions of 68 megatonnes. Using this as a benchmark, the group aims to reduce emissions by 32% (22 megatons per year) by 2030; 54% (25 megatons per year) by 2040; and 100% (21 megatons per year) by 2050.
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According to IHS Markit, oil sands producers have already managed to reduce emissions per barrel, or emissions intensity, by 20% since 2009 years.
Building on a fruitful collaboration
Suncor Energy CEO Mark Little says the Pathways strategy builds on more than $1.8 billion of work shared by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA).
This year marks the 10th anniversary of COSIA, which was launched by competing growers in 2012 to accelerate the reduction of environmental impacts like emissions, water use and residues.
“The goal was that we needed to move faster in improving,” Little told reporters on the sidelines of the recent CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.
“It’s actually going a step further, working together by investing in the necessary infrastructure so that we can go even faster, and even at a lower cost. That’s the plan.”
The power of CCUS
At the heart of the strategy is carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, where emissions that would otherwise have entered the atmosphere are captured and stored deep underground.
Captured CO2 can also be used to create valuable products like concrete, impurity-free ethyl alcohol for spirits and perfumes, and carbon composites that can replace metals in airplanes and sports equipment. This variant of the technology is called carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).
The International Energy Agency says it will be “virtually impossible” to meet emissions reduction targets without significantly expanded CCS.
Large-scale projects in Canada have safely stored more than 41 million tonnes of CO2 at depth, the equivalent of taking more than eight million cars off the road.
Alberta is investing in CCS and the federal government has expressed support for development.
“This technology is still in its infancy, but already employs thousands of Canadians,” federal ministers Jonathan Wilkinson and Steven Guilbeault wrote earlier this month.
“It has the potential to significantly reduce pollution while creating sustainable jobs and economic growth across the country.”
Protecting Canada’s Economy, US Energy Security
Oil sands producers say an investment of about $75 billion by industry and government in the Pathways vision will protect $3 trillion in economic contribution to Canada over the next 30 years.
It will also protect America’s energy security by providing a stable, reliable, and increasingly low-carbon energy supply.
Deborah Jaremko is Director of Content for the Canadian Energy Centre, an Alberta government corporation funded in part by industry-paid carbon emissions taxes. Unaltered reproduction of this content is free with attribution to Canadian Energy Center Ltd.
Deborah is a thought leader at Troy Media. For interview requests, click here.
The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are their own and do not inherently or expressly reflect the opinions of our publication.
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