Alberta’s oil and gas industry is world-renowned for its innovation and resiliency. Despite recent challenges that have emerged due to the steep decline of world energy prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as many jurisdictions preparing for a low carbon future and transition to renewable energy sources, many forecasts are optimistic and anticipate oil and gas to remain an important part of the supply mix for several decades to come. Alberta’s robust energy sector is preparing for this future with innovative technology and programs to support the current industry, while leading development of emerging energy options.
By the Numbers
- $7.7 billion Revenue generated by the provincial government in 2019 from resources and taxes related to oil and gas activity
- 415,000 Number of jobs attributed to oil and gas development in Alberta, including spin-off economic benefits
- 20,000 Number of businesses that directly or indirectly depend on oil and gas activity, including 399 Indigenous-owned businesses
- $476 million Stimulus funding available through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund for investments in technology and innovation to reduce emissions
Source: Government of Alberta
In fact, the Alberta Recovery Plan – a long-term strategy to build, diversify and create jobs that was initiated during the reopening phases amid the pandemic in mid-2020 – outlines several initiatives the provincial government is undertaking to build a strong future for the oil and gas industry, including advancing Alberta’s position as a leader in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) to demonstrate the critical role Alberta’s resources, technology and renewable opportunities will play in the transformation to a lower carbon economy.
Alberta Incentivizes More Petrochemical Activity
Alberta is refreshing its Petrochemicals Incentive Program with a new 10-year period of funding for eligible projects to help build on this well-established sector. The province is already among Canada’s largest hubs for petrochemicals manufacturing, which helped push the value of Alberta’s chemicals sector up to $12.1 billion with about 58,400 people directly and indirectly employed in 2019, according to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.
The province has established and potential growth for petrochemical manufacturing centres in the capital region with Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, central Alberta with the Hamlet of Joffre, the northwest area near Grande Prairie and the southeast area near Medicine Hat. According to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, there is an opportunity to grow Alberta’s petrochemical sector by more than $30 billion by 2030, resulting in more than 90,000 direct and indirect jobs over the construction and operation periods of new facilities.
Greening Oil Sands Extraction Natural Resources
Canada reported that new technologies combined with better operational efficiency has allowed the oil sands industry to decrease per-barrel GHG emissions by 28 percent between 2000 and 2017. According to Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an alliance of oil sands producers focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation, there’s more to come.
For example, a novel technology that insulates tubing inside wells to reduce the heat loss has been tested in steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations. In the SAGD process, steam is injected into the ground to heat bitumen so that it will flow to the surface. But the injected steam quickly loses heat and additional steam must be added to make up the heat loss.
One solution being developed to solve this problem is vacuum insulating tubing (VIT). This technology removes the air from between two strings of concentric tubing, creating a vacuum barrier that is difficult for heat to cross. By allowing injected steam to maintain its heat longer, VIT conserves heat and saves energy, reduces water consumption and shortens the steam cycle in operations – all of which reduce GHG emissions. Work is continuing to develop a VIT standard that can be adopted across the oil sands industry.
Solving the Plastics Problem
As backlash against single-use plastic items grew over the past two years, many jurisdictions took a stand to ban their use. In October 2020, as part of the Alberta government’s Natural Gas Vision and Strategy, the province outlined a solution to the plastic problem. Alberta’s vision is to create a circular economy where the full value of a plastic product is used across multiple lifecycles, not just used once and discarded into landfills or waterways.
The province’s goal is to become established as the western North America centre of excellence for plastics diversion and recycling by 2030. A study completed by Eunomia Research and Consulting indicated 4,500 direct full-time equivalent jobs are created in the province as a result of existing recycling activities with a further 1,600 indirect and 1,400 induced jobs, for a total of 7,500 jobs.