10 environmental successes achieved by Canada’s oil and gas industry CANADA’S OIL & GAS C anada’s oil and gas industry is achieving by Deborah Jaremko
Environmental protection spending includes everything from reclamation and decommission- ing of abandoned and orphan wells to the instal- lation of pollution prevention processes and technologies, environmental audits, and wildlife protection. Meanwhile, Canada’s largest oil sands producers consistently spend more per barrel on research and development than global oil majors, accord- ing to BMO Capital Markets. Major oil sands operators have collectively invested more than $1 billion per year on R&D since 2012, including a record $1.2 billion in 2018. BMO says that “this mounting R&D investment may just be starting to bear fruit with companies just at the cusp of demonstrating the full impact of innovation on environmental performance.” 7. Reclaiming inactive oil and gas wells faster A collaborative initiative is underway between the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and industry that is designed to eventually “flatten and reverse the trend” of liabilities associated with inactive oil and gas wells. A voluntary program called area-based closure (ABC) has been described as “a regulatory paradigm shift” in Alberta. Basically, instead of focusing spending on keeping inactive wells safely suspended, the program enables oil and gas producers to re-direct that investment to abandonment and reclamation – in essence, working faster to remove wells permanently as a liability. The AER says that during the first full year of the program in 2019, 56 companies participated, with 44 committing to an inactive liability reduc- tion target. There were 136 confirmed projects, and approximately $244 million committed to closure work by companies working towards a target.
success on its path to continuously reduce environmental impacts, and its innovations are being used to inform better practices around the world. This reality belies the characterizations of opponents that the sector is a laggard in envi- ronmental protection and performance. Here are 10 examples of ongoing environmen- tal success in Canadian oil and gas 10. Planting millions of trees Major oil sands producers planted more than 25 million trees between 2009 and 2018 to help reclaim areas of boreal forest impacted by devel- opment, according to BMO Capital Markets. This includes five million trees planted as part of the Faster Forests program, a voluntary joint ini- tiative by producers through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). The approach, developed with regulators and researchers, takes lessons from how a forest re-generates after a wildfire. It is now used across in situ oil sands projects and as a best practice for land use in Alberta. 9. Providing a clearer picture of global methane emissions This fall, Montreal-based GHGSat launched a free online high-resolution map showing concen- trations of methane emissions around the globe. The map, which is updated on a weekly basis, uses data collected from GHGSat satellites, aircraft sensors and proprietary analytics. GHGSat identified a massive methane leak at the Korpezhe oil and gas field in Western Turkmeni - stan in 2019, and the smallest methane emission
ever detected by a satellite, a controlled release in Alberta in October 2020. The company says it is making data openly avail- able to support industry and governments to reduce emissions. GHGSat launched its first orbital methane-scop - ing probe in 2016, thanks to a collaboration with COSIA and Suncor Energy.
8. Spending billions on environmental protec- tion and R&D Canada’s oil and gas sector spends more on envi- ronmental protection than any other Canadian industry, according to CEC research. From 2006 to 2016 (the most recent year with data avail- able), the oil and gas sector spent $24.5 billion on environmental protection, or more than four times the next highest spender, electric power generation at $5.6 billion.
FEBRUARY 2021 • SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2021
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