Alberta’s energy minister Sonya Savage delivered strong messaging on Tuesday to the World Petroleum Congress about the importance of Alberta’s hydrocarbons in the global energy future.
She stressed the importance of acknowledging that oil and gas will remain a major part of the global energy mix for decades—even while renewables and other sources increase their share, saying:
“We can debate whether fossil fuel use is going to decline, by how much or how quickly, but every credible forecast for energy use tells us that oil and gas will continue to be part of the mix.”
Savage articulated the unspoken truth about the coming energy transformation – that it will be neither simple nor easy. She also noted that governments will have missteps, citing the Biden administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Keystone XL would have carried 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta to the U.S. alleviating the current concern over high fuel prices. She noted the irony of the U.S. appealing to OPEC to deliver more oil this year after ruling out a pipeline that would have delivered cleaner oil from Canada, saying,
“Oil and gas will continue to be produced. The challenge for the energy industry is to reduce emissions from that production. We are going to need all sources of energy.”
Minister Savage delivered a message to WPC attendees that Alberta is strongly fostering innovation and stressed the importance of industry-driven solutions to the challenges of an energy future in which we reach for net-zero. She stressed that what allows Alberta to lead in innovation is that our innovation is built on a strong foundation provided by the traditional oil and gas sector which enables a diversified energy future.
It was refreshing to hear Minister Savage assert that the “development of emerging areas of production” is as important to an energy future as emissions reductions. She strongly confirmed that oil and gas will remain a major part of the global energy mix for decades.
“I think we can all acknowledge that we can’t move away from oil and gas when there aren’t yet reliable, stable, and affordable alternative replacements for heating and powering our homes, offices, and industries. It’s going to take time to transform the sector.”
She acknowledged that the energy mix will be supported by an increasing share of renewables and other lower-emission sources of energy. It was also refreshing to hear that the Government of Alberta is taking meaningful and practical steps that will result in real, timely emissions reductions.
She mentioned the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction program (or TIER) to empower industries to develop game-changing emissions reduction technologies. Alberta has also allocated up to $750 million from the program’s fund and other public funding over three years to projects to diversify the economy while cutting emissions and creating jobs.
Minister Savage reiterated the Alberta government’s work in carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) to attain commercial-scale funding and regulatory enhancements which will also enable Alberta to capitalize on opportunities for hydrogen development, and emissions reductions across many other industries as well as for opportunities for hydrogen, helium, geothermal and petrochemical development.
She also acknowledged the significant need for critical and rare earth minerals, which will be essential to producing new technology and products. With this need in mind, she has proactively tabled legislation last month, launching a critical and rare earth minerals strategy to provide the building blocks to attract investment.
In the area of rare earth minerals, Alberta has an advantage with companies already looking to extract and produce rare earth minerals, such as lithium, from both primary sources—such as rock and deep saline brines—and secondary sources, such as reprocessed waste or by-products from existing oil and gas and oil sands production.
It was encouraging to hear how Minister Savage is strongly promoting opportunities for Alberta’s energy industry internationally at the WPC and promoting the exploration of new technologies that will help move Canada and the rest of the world towards a lower-carbon future.
Certainly, more work awaits her back at home.
Maureen McCall is an energy professional who writes on issues affecting the energy industry