The Energy Ministers of Alberta and Saskatchewan said oil and gas innovation will continue to be their focus as Canada, which will host the 24th World Petroleum Congress in 2023, moves forward in the energy transition.

The ministers spoke on Tuesday during the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston on emerging technologies, but said those emerging technologies will come from within the oil and gas industry.

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“We just have to be cautious about being told to diversify so much that we forget what we were good at in the first place,” said Saskatchewan Minister of Energy Bronwyn Eyre.

Eyre said Saskatchewan is hoping to increase oil production by 20% in the next decade, supporting the province's 30,000 industry workers, many of whom, she said, are anxious about the transition.

“I think we also have to be realistic that some of these buzzwords around clean tech are aspirational. They’re possible, but they are also a source of great anxiety in the energy sector,” Eyre said.

Alberta Minister of Energy Sonya Savage likewise pointed to oil and gas innovation as key to the energy transition in her province, where emissions reduction — specifically the regulation of methane — has been a focus.

Savage said the region is on track to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2025 and has already reduced overall emissions by 36% since 2000 levels.

She added that Alberta is set to reduce by another 13% to 25% in the short term.

“Every credible forecast for the global energy mix shows that oil and gas are going to continue to be used for decades. In fact, it's going to continue to dominate the energy mix,” Savage said.

“So if we want to be able to be part of that, we have to be low cost, low risk and low carbon, and we have to have innovations in the oil and gas sector to be able to continue to supply in a global mix."

Savage has her eye on the Oil Sands Pathways alliance, a collaboration of six of Alberta’s most emitting companies to eliminate 68 megatonnes of emissions annually and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

US heavyweight ConocoPhillips became the most recent company to join the alliance in November.

The group was formed through industry interests, Savage said, and will need mass innovation to be successful, which she said that she intends to support.

Opportunities in carbon capture

The ministers said Canada’s federal government is working on a carbon tax credit, similar to the US’s 45Q, which provides a tax credit for carbon capture projects.

Savage said Alberta has ideal geology for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and has enough storage capacity to achieve net zero emissions in the region.

“There’s no path to net zero globally or in Canada, or Alberta, or anywhere without carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS),” Savage said.

Eyre stressed that incentives for CCUS also need to exist for their utilisation in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes — Saskatchewan has one of these largest such projects — and not just for sequestration. She said EOR generates 82% fewer emissions than traditional extraction methods.