Oil and Gas Pumpjacks With the Canadian Flag in the Background.

10 things you probably didn’t know about Canadian oil and natural gas

From lowering emissions to jobs in Quebec, Canada’s industry is ahead of the curve and making a positive impact.

It’s been a challenging year for Canada’s natural gas and oil sector. But this resilient, innovative industry continues to meet challenges with solutions from advanced technologies that help reduce emissions to providing employment right across the country. Here are 10 fast facts about the industry that might surprise you.

1. Many industrial sectors talk about lowering emissions: Canada’s oil and natural gas sector is already making major progress. The industry has a broad portfolio of innovative technologies that are making a difference now:

  • From 2011 to 2019, the combined production of natural gas, condensate and natural gas liquids increased 32% while emissions intensity in this sector decreased by 33%.
  • As a result of Canada’s flaring conservation practices, this country ranks among the lowest-emission natural gas producers globally.
  • While production from oil sands in situ facilities grew by 66% from 2013 to 2019, emissions intensity dropped by 8%.
  • From 2013 to 2019 oil sands mining production increased 59% as emissions intensity decreased by 14%.
  • Overall emissions from Canada’s offshore production is already low relative to other global offshore sources. Offshore operators have reduced flaring significantly and are working to manage and reduce emissions through operational efficiencies and preventative maintenance, which in turn reduces energy consumption.
Shell  Quest Carbon Capture and Storage  CSS Facility  CO2 Pipe Courtesy Shell rollup
Carbon capture projects like Quest are helping lower emissions. Photo courtesy CNW Group/Shell Canad

Canadian energy producers are leaders in the climate space. In June 2021, six major oil sands operators formed the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero Initiative. Their goal is to work collectively with the federal and Alberta governments to achieve net zero emissions from oil sands operations by 2050. The pathways include carbon capture projects and other innovations and technologies.

2. Canadian oil and natural gas do not receive government subsidies.

Activist organizations continue to claim that Canada’s natural gas and oil industry receives billions in government subsidies, but it just isn’t true. Like any industry, the natural gas and oil sector is allowed to claim tax measures designed to create jobs and opportunities. These are not subsidies. True subsidies are designed to confer an unfair advantage or benefit that other sectors do not have, often to prop up a company or sector that cannot otherwise compete or be profitable. Canada’s natural gas and oil industry is competitive and brings in large revenues to governments in the forms of taxes and royalties.

Read more: Clearing the air on subsidies

3. Oil, natural gas and refined products like gasoline combine to be Canada’s #1 export by value but Canada still imports both oil and natural gas into eastern Canada.

Despite having vast energy resources, including those offshore in Atlantic Canada, oil and natural gas are both imported to serve customers in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. This is because there is insufficient pipeline capacity within Canada able to carry oil supplies in the West to refineries in Central and Eastern Canada. Ironically, polls suggest strong support for using Canadian-produced energy.

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4. There are thousands of oil and natural gas jobs in Ontario and Quebec.

You’d expect strong employment in producing provinces like B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. Remarkably though, outside of Alberta the largest supplier of goods and services to the oil sands is: Ontario, with $2.4 billion in purchases from more than 1,300 suppliers that provided everything from steel pipe to high-tech software. Nearly 600 Quebec-based businesses supplied $760 million to the oil sands industry. And that translates to jobs in both provinces – more than 84,000 in total.

Jobs across Canada

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5. The industry has strong support from Indigenous peoples and communities.

In June 2021, the Indigenous Resource Network released results of a nation-wide poll of Indigenous people to examine their opinions about resource development. The poll found that 65% of respondents supported natural resource development. Asked if a new project were to be proposed near their own community, supporters outweighed opponents 2 to 1 (54% to 26%). 

Read more: Indigenous support for resource development

Indigenous peoples and the oil and natural gas sector in Canada are finding new ways to work together, growing resource development in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner. Engagement between Canada’s energy producers and Indigenous communities can take many forms – companies and communities work to understand one another’s needs and priorities. Engagement includes consultation, employment and training, community programs and investment, and Indigenous investment and participation in
resource projects. There are hundreds of examples of economic and other mutually beneficial interactions between the natural gas and oil industry and Indigenous peoples, businesses and communities.

jordan jolicoeur rollup
Meet Jordan Jolicoeur, CEO of a thriving Indigenous-led business who sees opportunity working with Canada’s energy industry

6. Participants at the most recent UN climate summit agreed to pursue methane emissions reduction. Canada’s natural gas and oil industry is already there.

About 44 per cent of the country’s methane emissions come from upstream oil and natural gas facilities. Cutting these emissions not only improves environmental performance, it also saves operating costs. Operators are working to meet federal and Alberta government regulations to reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025. The industry is making solid progress, including technologies developed by some 60 western Canadian companies providing a variety of methane detection and reduction products and services through support from the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada.

Read more: Reducing methane emissions: fighting climate change while remaining profitable

7. 99 per cent of Canada’s exported energy products go to the U.S. (which isn’t always a good thing). More pipelines in Canada will mean better access to international markets.

The U.S. will always be an important customer for Canadian natural gas and oil. But exports to a single buyer means we don’t always get the best price for our resources. That’s why Canada needs more pipelines, including the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, which will increase the capacity of the current Trans Mountain pipeline – which transports about 300,000 barrels per day from Alberta to locations in B.C. – to more than 800,000 barrels per day. The expansion project also creates good jobs for Canadians. Upon completion in 2022, the expanded pipeline capacity will provide improved ability to ship responsibly produced Canadian oil to overseas markets, ensuring Canada can get full value for our oil.

As for natural gas, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline – now under construction in B.C. – will carry natural gas produced in the northeast portion of the province to LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the west coast. From there, Canada’s low-emission natural gas can be exported to customers in China, India and elsewhere in Asia. And, like Trans Mountain, construction of this pipeline provides good jobs and enables the many First Nations who support the project to realize important economic benefits.

Read more: Lack of pipelines cost Canada $14 billion

8. Canada has an opportunity to export the best LNG in the world, which would help lower global emissions.

With completion of the LNG Canada facility currently under construction near Kitimat, B.C., responsibly produced natural gas will be exported from Canada to meet growing demand in China, India and elsewhere where it can be used instead of coal to provide reliable and affordable electricity generation. Emissions from natural gas are substantially lower than those from burning coal, so using more natural gas and less coal would help lower overall global emissions. And here’s more good news: programs and initiatives such as reducing methane emissions, and using electricity to power natural gas wells and processing plants, further reduces overall emissions in the natural gas industry. In fact, LNG Canada expects to offer natural gas / LNG that is among the least emissions-intensive in the world.

Canada: the world’s best LNG

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9. Oil and natural gas are known as the source of transportation fuels and home heating, but these resources mean much more. From running shoes to kayaks, pills to contact lenses, oil and natural gas are part of many products we use every day.

It’s easy to forget the irreplaceable role oil and natural gas play through the thousands of products we depend on that are made using petrochemicals. It’s a key reason why we’ll need oil and natural gas for the foreseeable future, and why Canadian producers are focused on becoming world leaders at lowering greenhouse gas emissions associated with oil and natural gas production: so we can continue enjoying a good quality of life while meeting global climate and sustainability challenges through a low-carbon future.

Made from oil and natural gas

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10. Schools, hospitals, roads and more: built by Canadian oil and natural gas.

The natural gas and oil sector is truly a national industry, and benefits the entire country. Employment is one aspect, and more than 500,000 Canadians are directly or indirectly employed by the industry. But government revenues from taxes and royalties are a much bigger benefit the industry provides, meaning support for everything from building schools and hospitals to roads and bridges, plus social services.

The economic contribution of Canadian oil and natural gas

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