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Canadian oil and gas: Environmental innovation

Clean oil and natural gas is not an oxymoron: it’s the path forward Canada’s oil and natural gas producers who are committed to energy solutions through innovation and environmentally sustainable practices.

There are some who see energy and the environment as opposing forces: that we must sacrifice one for the other. What if we were to instead focus on solutions? To develop energy resources the world needs while meeting the environmental challenges of today?

The world needs energy

The fact is, the world needs energy. It is essential to improving quality of life. Today, nearly a billion people still lack reliable access to electricity; three billion can’t access smoke-free cooking fuels.

India's Prime Minister Modi says the country is on the verge of providing electricity to every village in the country of more than 1.3 billion people.

As global population grows, emerging economies in places like China and India are creating middle-class households seeking similar standards of living long enjoyed in the West. They want to buy a washing machine, own their first car, fly their kids to Disneyland and get the latest iPhone.

In its 2018 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that global energy demand will increase 27 per cent by 2040, even accounting for continued (and vital) improvements in energy efficiency. Much of that increased energy consumption will help improve quality of life in countries with emerging and developing economies.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the challenge of climate change, and the pressing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) caused by the combustion of fossil fuels.

So what can we do?

A sustainable scenario

Increased use of renewable energy sources will help meet some of the burden of addressing growing global energy demand. Nevertheless, it is clear that all forms of energy will be needed for the foreseeable future. Even under the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, which would require an unprecedented eight-fold increase in renewable sources of energy over the next 21 years, 60 per cent of the world’s growing energy needs would still need to be met by fossil fuels.

The IEA scenario recognizes that necessary decreases in global emissions can also be achieved through environmental technologies that reduce emissions caused by fossil fuels. Promising technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and methane detection and mitigation, have the potential to turn oil and natural gas into lower-carbon energy sources fit for the needs of a low-carbon future.

The approach represents a unique opportunity for Canada to become a world leader.

Canada leads the way

For decades, Canadian oil and gas companies have shown their commitment to our country’s high environmental standards and some of the world’s most stringent regulations. They’ve developed technologies and processes that allow them to produce Canada’s oil and natural gas resources in a highly sustainable manner while also remaining globally cost competitive.

It’s something that takes dedication, expertise and a willingness to innovate.

Canada supplies energy to the world while operating some of the safest, low-environmental impact facilities in the world. In fact, among oil-producing nations, Canada is a leader along environment, social and governance measures. In a world that will require oil and natural gas resources to meet energy demand for decades to come, Canada is already a sustainable supplier of choice.

And when faced with the environmental challenges of the 21st century, Canadian oil and natural gas producers have gone further.

Working together on environmental innovation

In 2012, Canada’s oil sands producers formed Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), a one-of-a-kind effort to collaborate on and share environmental technologies to improve outcomes for land, air, water and GHGs across the entire industry.

In seven short years, COSIA has enabled the development of more than 1,000 technologies, and seen significant reductions in GHGs, water, land and air impacts. COSIA has also partnered on the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE—engaging innovators around the world to find ways to turn GHG emissions into useful products ranging from fish food to IKEA chairs.

Through organizations like Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), oil and natural gas producers are collaborating with governments, academia, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors across the country and around the world—finding real-world solutions to environmental challenges while investing in Canadian knowledge and expertise.

Industry investment in groups like Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) provide funding and support for cleantech startups: giving bright-eyed imaginative entrepreneurs a chance to develop market-driven solutions for cleaner, low-carbon production of natural gas and oil.

The fact is, Canada as a nation—industry, governments, entrepreneurs, universities and communities—are working to find cleantech solutions to the energy versus the environment conundrum the world faces.

The cleantech revolution

Rather than focusing on blame for global emissions, or unrealistic efforts to throttle energy use when more and more people around the world are demanding energy to improve their lives, Canadians have a historic opportunity to lead the way in a cleantech revolution.

The global cleantech market is estimated to reach $2.5 trillion in coming years. If Canada were to capture just two percent of this market, it would mean $50 billion to the Canadian economy. It would create jobs and economic prosperity for Canadians while paving the way for an energy abundant, environmentally sustainable future for the world.

It’s the Canadian way: finding solutions through innovative thinking, and a positive can-do approach to global problems.