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Cenovus boss urges Trudeau to pay for greening Canada’s oil sands

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Cenovus boss urges Trudeau to pay for greening Canada’s oil sands

Canada’s oil might be the ‘cleanest in the world’, but it will take $ 75 billion to get there

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The government of Canada should pay up to 70 percent of a proposed $ 75 billion project to decarbonize the country’s controversial oil sands and protect a critical engine of the country’s economy, said one of the sponsors of the proposal.

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“If we can solve the puzzle of making Canadian oil significantly lower in carbon,” the oil would be “the cleanest in the world,” said Alex Pourbaix, CEO of Cenovus Energy, the world’s second largest oil producer. country. the Financial Times.

But Justin Trudeau’s liberal government, which last year pledged Canada to cut emissions 40 to 45 percent below its 2005 levels by 2030, must pay for this to happen, he argued.

“It will take tens of billions of dollars in 30 years to decarbonize [our oil] industry, ”said Pourbaix. “But at the same time that will protect something in the range of $ 3 trillion of GDP.”

Pourbaix and the industry group the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (Capp) also urged the federal government to extend tax credits to oil companies that would use the captured carbon to produce more oil.

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“If we can solve the puzzle of making Canadian oil significantly lower in carbon,” the oil would be “the cleanest in the world,” said Alex Pourbaix, CEO of Cenovus Energy. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

Requests for federal funds will complicate things for Trudeau amid criticism that Canada is not moving fast enough to meet its climate goals as his government defends its high-emission oil industry, the largest oil exporter to the US. USA

Despite imposing an aggressive carbon tax regime, the federal government lobbied for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, which was canceled by US President Joe Biden earlier this year, and is funding the development of another pipeline. exported from the oil sands to the west coast of Canada.

“Our prosperity and our economy continue to depend heavily” on the oil sector, said Seamus O’Regan, the country’s liberal federal resources minister in a recent interview with the FT. “It is what we do.”

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Last month, Cenovus joined the other four largest producers in Canada’s oil and gas sector, the largest contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, to propose a vast carbon capture, use and storage project. (CCUS) which, they said, was “the only realistic proposal.” to curb pollution.

Critics of CCUS say the technology, cited for years as a solution to emissions, is still too expensive to scale.

Pourbaix said it showed that operators are now “in tune with where the world is moving.”

The proposal includes the installation of a trunk line that captures carbon from oil sands projects and other industries near Fort McMurray in northern Alberta and stores it further south near Cold Lake.

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The proposal came when the Canadian government proposed an investment tax credit designed to accelerate the development of a national CCUS industry. Credits should start next year.

Pourbaix urged the federal government to reverse the decision to exclude enhanced oil recovery, a method of reinjection of captured CO2 to help produce more oil, from the tax incentive scheme, saying the EOR could make CCUS projects inexpensive. ” From the beginning. “

Tim McMillan, Capp’s CEO, welcomed the federal government’s focus on CCUS to help meet its emissions target, but said that “excluding EOR from the federal program will create substantial challenges for the government to meet this target.”

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A spokesman for O’Regan’s office said that CCUS was “one of many technologies that will bring us to net zero by 2050,” but did not say whether the federal government would help pay for the proposed project by the oil sands companies. The government has set aside $ 319 million for CCUS research and is working on a new strategy to promote it.

The oil sands sector is recovering from last year’s crisis. But operators continue to face opposition from climate activists and environmentally focused investors due to the higher emissions associated with the production of the heavy bituminous oil found in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Large international oil companies, including Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor, have withdrawn investments from the region, which is home to the third largest oil deposit in the world.

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The Alberta provincial government has fought aggressively to protect the sector, including a recent failed legal challenge to stop the federal carbon tax.

Pourbaix said he supported the new carbon pricing scheme and that his company has a “long-term ambition” to achieve net zero emissions from its operations. But like other oil sands operators, Cenovus would not commit to a net zero goal for its so-called scope 3 emissions: pollution caused by burning the products it sells.

“Scope 3 is largely the responsibility of consumers,” said Pourbaix. “And absolve the consumer of his responsibility for this does not make sense.”

© 2021 The Financial Times Ltd

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