The oilpatch and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have disagreed in the past about who should pay for critical investments in emissions-reducing technologies such as carbon capture and storage, but there didn’t appear to be much daylight between the two camps during a visit to Washington on Thursday.
Kenney was joined by oilsands executives on a trip to the US capital this week aimed at dispelling negative perceptions about the Canadian energy industry south of the border and to promote the sector’s ambitious plan to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to reach net zero by 2050 .
During a roundtable discussion at the Wilson Center, Kenney argued Canadian energy could help resolve one of the biggest challenges the US is facing currently: high energy costs and gas prices putting pressure on consumers at the pump. The premier called for a “North American energy alliance” and closer cooperation between the two countries to ensure longterm certainty for lower-emitting Canadian production and exports.
“To be blunt, we know that there is a view amongst some in Washington and elsewhere, that the Canadian oilsands are not a responsible producer or source of hydrocarbon energy,” Kenney said.
“We don’t get enough credit and we don’t demand enough credit for the environmental progress that we’ve made.”
Kenney made the comments while flanked by key members of the Pathways Alliance — formerly known as the Oil Sands Pathway to Net Zero Alliance — a coalition of six major oil producers proposing a multibillion-dollar carbon capture and storage system in northern Alberta capable of sequestering 22 million tonnes of GHG emissions annually from the oil sands by 2030; the alliance includes Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, ConocoPhillips Canada, Imperial Oil, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy.
The oilsands, the group has argued, is particularly well-suited for CCS technology thanks to favourable geology for underground storage and large in-situ operations with concentrated emissions which can be captured and sequestered. Kendall Dilling, Pathways Alliance president and vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs at Cenovus Energy Inc., said CCS could be deployed at a handful of large operations in the oilsands to capture significant amounts of emissions, whereas targeting equivalent production from other oil fields could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of smaller geographically spread- out facilities.
“We have long been known for our top ESG performance across every other metric… but greenhouse gas emissions has been a bit of an Achilles heel for our industry and we recognize that,” Dilling said at Thursday’s roundtable. “And we’ve come together as these six companies who currently operate 95 per cent of the production coming out of the oilsands with a single laser-focused mission to address that issue.”
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Some oilsands executives, including Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix, have publicly suggested that the high cost of deploying of CCS technology on a large scale will require more investment from governments. Pourbaix said in April that the federal government’s new carbon capture, utilization and storage investment tax credit has not gone far enough to satisfy investors in the longterm viability of the projects — a view which has been criticized by Kenney and others who have argued the sector should be deploying some of its historically high profits to invest in decarbonization.
Still, the two camps presented a united front in Washington this week in a bid to win over US policy makers, with Alberta government officials pressing the advantages of Canada’s regulatory standards and the industry’s own $50 million in annual environmental monitoring.
“Does anybody really believe that (Russian state-owned) Gazprom or Saudi Aramco or PetroChina are reporting at the same levels of transparency and honesty and objectivity as these Canadian companies and this democratically elected government?” Kenney said.
“I think we are too much Boy Scouts about this stuff and sometimes, we get punished by our honesty. We’re forthcoming about what our environmental challenges are. We are absolutely transparent about our emissions profile and I don’t believe our competitors are .”