Innovation is the real strength of Canadian energy; The industry's future is bright

Contributed to The Calgary Herald
Tim McMillan
President and CEO
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
July 01, 2017
There are many things that make a great nation, and Canada is considered among the greatest. We are majestic and beautiful, we are diverse and multicultural, we are free thinkers and innovators, and we’re blessed with some of the world’s richest natural resources.

From forestry to agriculture to fisheries, our abundant resources have put us on the map and made us global leaders– particularly when it comes to oil and natural gas.

From the moment North America’s first commercial oil well was drilled in Ontario in 1858, Canada has been at the forefront of responsible and sustainable energy development. 

When Karl A. Clark pioneered the hot-water extraction process for the oil sands in 1928 he introduced the world to a new type of energy – one that not only became an economic driver for Canada but provided North America with a stable source of reliable energy for more than 90 years.

Remarkably, our history in the petroleum industry dates back even further than Confederation when oil was first spotted seeping along the river banks of the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories – later inspiring Imperial Oil to spud one of Canada’s oldest producing oil wells at Norman Wells.
Across the country on the east coast Royal Dutch Shell drilled the first natural gas well offshore Nova Scotia in in 1967, leading to more exploration in the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean and a vibrant industry offshore Newfoundland and Labrador today.

While our history has made us who we are today, it’s the future of our energy industry that will help determine who we become tomorrow. Our determination, perseverance, and frontier spirit has made Canada an energy superpower as the world’s sixth-largest oil producer and fifth-largest natural gas producer.

In our 2017 Crude Oil Forecast, Markets and Transportation report, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecasted our nation’s oil production will grow to 5.1 million barrels per day by 2030, up from 3.85 million b/d in 2016.

Our constant desire to be better – more responsible, more environmental, and more innovative – has poised Canadian production to grow even more from shale discoveries in the Montney, Horn River, and Duvernay plays of Western Canada, light oil in Saskatchewan’s Bakken, and potential from new shale plays in Quebec and New Brunswick.

The future of unconventional production is being paved with new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing. Although it was introduced in Alberta in 1953, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have become integral to exploration.

In the oil sands, steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) has spawned an influx of new in situ developments. The technology is allowing us to use and recycle saline water unfit for human consumption to heat the sands to be piped to the surface. 

Since 2012, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) – a unique collaboration of 13 oil sands companies – has invested $1.33 billion to create more than 930 distinct environmental technologies and innovations including the elimination of tailings ponds and speeding up reclamation.

Offshore Newfoundland and Labrador advanced methods of collecting data has led to the promise of potentially new oil discoveries, prompting major international companies to invest in Atlantic Canada.

With our first 150 years behind us, it’s time we begin laying the groundwork for the next 150 years – a future that sees Canada providing more energy with less impact on the environment.

Canada is a global energy leader. According to the Ipsos Global Energy Pulse – an international survey about the world’s views on energy – Canada ranked No. 1 as the preferred supplier of oil and natural gas exports to markets internationally. 

The world is growing and will need all forms of energy. And the world wants more Canadian energy.

We have always been a high-tech industry, always innovating for the future. That’s the true energy behind Canada’s oil and gas sector. That is Canada’s energy for tomorrow.

We’ve come a long way, Canada. Happy Birthday.