Alberta, Saskatchewan energy ministers promote O&G industry, innovation at WPC

Sonya Savage (left) and Bronwyn Eyre (right) flank moderator Rachel McCormick, Consul General of Canada to the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas

(Houston) — The energy ministers of Alberta and Saskatchewan provided delegates of this week’s World Petroleum Congress with a first-hand explanation of what is driving investment, innovation and emissions reduction in their provinces.

“We want to continue to produce [oil and gas] but to produce it we have to be low-risk, low-cost and low-carbon, and … what we’re doing in Alberta is taking steps to reduce emissions,” said Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage, who was on a panel with Bronwyn Eyre, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Energy and Resources, as part of WPC’s ministerial sessions that gave a platform to a diverse set of hydrocarbon producing countries, including Canada.

“In fact, our oilsands producers produce over three million barrels a day of production [and] are on a path to net zero with their Pathways [Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero] initiative,” said Savage.

She noted the producers have already lowered emissions in the oilsands by over 36 per cent since 2000, and are on track for another 13 per cent to 25 per cent over the short term.

“That’s important as we are living in a world that’s looking to lower emissions,” Savage said. “But we should [be clear] that we’re not moving off of oil and gas any time soon. We know that we need to reduce emissions but right now there’s not any reliable and affordable and stable alternatives that will guarantee the world low-cost and secure energy.”

She said the world will continue to use oil and gas even as new and emerging sources of energy enter the mix, which is necessary in a world that needs to move towards net zero.

“But we can’t underestimate how difficult it’s going to be,” said Savage. “It’s going to take time and it’s not going to be easy. And that’s why we have to focus on innovation. That’s what we’re doing in Alberta as we also pursue a path forward with some of the new and emerging sources of energy like hydrogen, like geothermal, like helium.”

The 24th World Petroleum Congress will be held in Calgary in September 2023, tackling the theme of Energy Transition – the Path to Net Zero.

Eyre also spoke on emerging technologies and what Saskatchewan is doing to meet the needs of a low-carbon economy. Saskatchewan is doing a great deal with an approach that builds on the province’s strengths, she said.

 “It’s very important to us not to turn our backs on the 30,000 energy workers whom we have in the province,” she said. “In fact, we do have a [plan], in parallel to all the other efforts that we are pursuing, to actually increase oil production by 20 per cent over the next decade in Saskatchewan.”

Eyre referred to a common concern that a green transition that is “too rapid, too glib, and too political” could hurt energy workers in Canada. One report said the industry was at risk of losing 450,000 jobs in the energy sector in Canada if it rolls out in that way, she said.

“In Saskatchewan, I think the key is complementing the traditional sectors we have and building on the strengths and we’re certainly doing that.”

Recently the first dedicated lithium well was drilled in Saskatchewan, and the province released its “very tangible and sustainable” helium action plan. Eyre said she met with the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors in Regina recently and she was pleased to hear how much member companies were also drilling for helium.

“I think that is very key — that crossover of workers who have incredible skills in the traditional extraction sector that … are now moving to some of these emerging areas,” said Eyre.

She also highlighted Saskatchewan’s work in helium extraction, and its leadership role in carbon capture and storage, and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), which uses 82 per cent fewer emissions than traditional extraction methods. In fact, Eyre said Whitecap Resources [Inc.’s] facility in Weyburn is sequestering half the carbon dioxide sequestered every year in Canada. 

“I think that that’s a pretty good record, if we’re talking about building on strength and moving parallel in sustainability with the traditional sector,” said Eyre.

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