Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, Imperial, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy on 9 June formally announced the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative. These companies operate approximately 90% of Canada’s oil sands production. The goal of this unique alliance, working collectively with the federal and Alberta governments, is to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil sands operations by 2050 to help Canada meet its climate goals, including its Paris Agreement commitments and 2050 net zero aspirations.
This collaborative effort follows announcements from the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta of important support programmes for emissions-reduction projects and infrastructure. Collaboration between industry and government will be critical to progressing the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero vision and achieving Canada’s climate goals.
The Pathways vision is anchored by a major Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) trunkline connected to a carbon sequestration hub to enable multi-sector ‘tie-in’ projects for expanded emissions reductions. The proposed CCUS system is similar to the multi-billion dollar Longship/Northern Lights project in Norway as well as other CCUS projects in the Netherlands, UK and US, all of which involve significant collaboration between industry and government.
The Pathways initiative is ambitious and will require significant investment on the part of both industry and government to advance the research and development of new and emerging technologies.
The oil sands industry is a significant source of GHG emissions and the initiative will develop an actionable approach to address those emissions, while also preserving the more than CAD3,000 billion in estimated oil sands contribution to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) over the next 30 years. The initiative will create jobs, accelerate development of the clean tech sector, provide benefits for multiple other sectors and help maintain Canadians’ quality of life. The members of the Pathways alliance will do their part by making the economic investments needed to ensure that our companies successfully make the transition to a net zero world, and hence, deliver long-term value to shareholders.
Because there is no single solution to achieving net zero emissions, the initiative incorporates a number of parallel pathways to address GHG emissions, including:
- A core Alberta infrastructure corridor linking oil sands facilities in the Fort McMurray and Cold Lake regions to a carbon sequestration hub near Cold Lake via a CO2 trunkline. The trunkline would also be available to other industries in the region interested in capturing and sequestering CO2. There is also potential to link the infrastructure corridor to the Edmonton region.
- Deploying existing and emerging GHG reduction technologies at oil sands operations along the corridor, including CCUS technology, clean hydrogen, process improvements, energy efficiency, fuel switching and electrification.
- Evaluating, piloting and accelerating application of potential emerging emissions-reducing technologies including direct air capture, next-generation recovery technologies and small modular nuclear reactors.
In addition to collaborating and investing together with industry, it is essential for governments to develop enabling policies, fiscal programs and regulations to provide certainty for this type of long-term, large-scale investment. This includes dependable access to carbon sequestration rights, emissions reduction credits and ongoing investment tax credits.
Members of the Pathways initiative believe the most effective way to address climate change is by developing and advancing new technologies and that this unprecedented challenge can and will be solved by Canadian ingenuity, leadership and collaboration. While alternative energy sources will play an increasingly important role in the decades ahead, all internationally recognised forecasts indicate fossil fuels will continue to be an essential requirement through 2050 and beyond as part of a diversified energy mix, including as a feedstock for carbon fibres, asphalt, plastics and other important products. Pathways members said Canada must take its place as a leading supplier of responsibly produced oil to meet the world’s demand for energy well into the future.
“Collaboration among companies, innovators and governments is critical to achieving ambitious goals. That’s how we built a budding oil sands resource into one of the world’s most reliable and ESG-leading oil basins in the world,” said Mark Little, Suncor President and CEO.
Picture: Aerial image of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada