Canada’s major oil sands producers on Wednesday announced an alliance to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil sands operations by 2050.
The initiative, which is a collaboration between industry and government, will seek to develop an actionable approach to emissions, while preserving more than $3-trillion in estimated oil sands contributions to Canada’s economy over the next 30 years.
Known as the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative, the alliance includes companies operating about 90% of Canada’s oil sands production, including Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, Imperial, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy.
"Every credible energy forecast indicates that oil will be a major contributor to the energy mix in the decades ahead and even beyond 2050. Alberta is uniquely positioned and ready to meet that demand. This initiative will also pave the way for continued technological advancements, ultimately leading to the production of net zero barrels of oil,” Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement.
The statement points to the role that fossil fuels will continue to have as a feedstock for carbon fibres, asphalt, plastics, among others, in the decades ahead, stressing the importance of Canada being a leader in the supply of responsibly produced oil.
The pathways vision is anchored by a major carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) trunkline connecting oil sands facilities in Fort McMurray and Cold Lake to a carbon sequestration hub near Cold Lake. The trunkline would also be available to other industries in the region, enabling multi-sector 'tie-in' projects for expanded emissions reductions.
The proposed CCUS system is similar to the multibillion-dollar Longship/Northern Lights project in Norway, as well as other CCUS projects in the Netherlands, the UK and the US, all of which involve significant collaboration between industry and government.
The initiative will require significant investment on the part of industry and government to advance the research and development of new and emerging technologies.
"Canadian ingenuity has enabled oil sands development and with continued innovation, positions Canada to be the ESG-leading barrel to meet global energy demand. We are committed to working together with industry partners and governments to help meet Canada's climate objectives while providing sustainable long-term economic and social benefits for Canadians from the oil sands,” said Canadian Natural president Tim McKay.
Suncor CEO Mark Little added the Canadian oil sands industry was built on collaboration among companies, innovators and governments.
"Canada - as one of the few jurisdictions with industrial-scale commercial CCUS projects in operation, coupled with Alberta's abundant natural gas resources, geology and relevant technological expertise - is well positioned to lead in this area."
Achieving net zero emissions from oil sands operations by 2050 will help Canada meet its climate goals, including its Paris Agreement commitments and 2050 net zero aspirations.