October 19, 2017

Canadian energy is amongst the safest and greenest on the planet. So why aren’t we getting the credit?

By Brad Tennant 

With the Energy East pipeline being added to the list of unrealized Canadian energy megaprojects, hard questions about Canada’s collective energy future have crept up: 

  • Are politics and overregulation hurting the Canadian oil and natural gas industry’s capacity to innovate? 
  • Will Canada ever have a pipeline to the east coast? 
  • What does this mean for the future of the oil sands? 
  • What more can we do to show how safe and responsible oil and natural gas developed the Canadian way is? 

I could easily devote an entire blog post to each question. There has certainly been no shortage of post-mortem analysis and editorializing on the first three, but it’s the fourth question that I’d really like to dig into. 

In short, I believe the answer is not a whole heckuva lot.  

On virtually every front - from worker safety, to sustainable water use, to greenhouse gas emissions, to land reclamation - Canadian energy producers consistently demonstrate they are world leaders and continuously raising the bar on standards and innovation. 

If the world was a fair and just place, Canada would have pipelines running north, south, east, and west and everywhere else in between. We would have convinced our critics long ago that our standards for energy development are unrivalled anywhere in the world and that our oil and natural gas products are the fairest, freest, and greenest in the world. 

Cosia1.jpg
(What in-situ oil sands facilities look like in Canada)  

But, as we all know, the world isn’t fair. Despite extraordinary advances in improving our environmental performance, Canadian energy remains a favourite target for foreign special interest groups who have little interest in hard facts or evidence. 

Take the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). Launched in 2012, COSIA is a group of  oil sands producers  focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands. These companies came together to share technological breakthroughs and other best practices with the objective of reducing the entire sector’s overall environmental impact. 

Nowhere else in the world will you find a model like this - competitors in business but partners in environmental protection. To date, COSIA member companies have shared over 900 distinct technologies and innovations that cost more than $1.3 billion to develop. 

Technologies like Direct Contact Steam Generation advanced by Suncor - a new twist on Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) drilling that promises to reduce and perhaps eliminate CO2 emissions at well sites.  

Or new, soft-sensor technology currently being tested by Canadian Natural Resources Limited that can dramatically increase steam quality in SAGD operations, thus reducing GHG emissions while increasing oil production. 

Our accomplishments on mitigating the impacts of resource development shine especially bright when compared with the deplorable records of our principle energy competitors whose product Canada continues to import. 

Take Venezuela, for example, a country whose oil eastern Canada will continue to import because of Energy East’s demise. Venezuela is the world’s single-most prolific air polluter, emitting more CO2 per person than any other nation on earth. That includes China, which is responsible for over 20% of the planet’s overall GHG emissions. 

Any rational comparison and evaluation between Canadian and Venezuelan energy would be over in about three seconds. Canada wins every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Yet we find ourselves in a world where Canada’s remarkable advancements in environmental mitigation go unrewarded while places like Venezuela continue to find friendly shores for their environmental profligacy. 

You can be sure that Canadian producers will continue to make progress on reducing their environmental impact while Venezuela and its contemporaries keep flouting even the most basic environmental standards.  

We can only keep telling our story until the world wakes up to the obvious truth that Canadian energy wins on every front.