The Honourable Jason Kenney served as the 18th Premier of Alberta, where he led the development and diversification of the province's energy sector, built partnerships with Indigenous communities and created new opportunities for businesses to grow and attract investment.
As the start of the World Petroleum Congress 2023 nears in Calgary, Jason shares his insights on the Canadian oil & gas industry and this year's theme of the energy transition and the path to net zero.
What is Canada and Alberta's place in the energy transition?
Canada plays a critical role. We have the third largest reserves of oil in the world and the most by far among democratic nations. We are the fourth largest oil producer and number six in natural gas. Alberta is the Canadian leader in both areas, with a thriving market-based system and a light regulatory touch.
We have a vibrant innovation ecosystem across the country. Alberta is an energy transition technology hub and we have the highest number of engineers in Canada and professionals in all fields of STEM. When you put Canada's resources, democratic standing, market approach and technological leadership together, we have a one-of-a-kind place in the energy world.
How much oil is Canada producing right now?
Last year, global oil consumption neared all-time highs. Canadian oil production has increased from 3.74 million bpd in 2012 to a record of 5.58 million bpd in 2022 – and all of it is ethically-sourced and market-based. The world will continue to need oil and many countries want it to come from us. An April 2023 Ipsos study shows that Canada is the most preferred global supplier of oil.
What are the biggest opportunities you see in the energy transition?
Canada is leading the way in Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) technology. Shell Canada's Energy Quest facility near Edmonton began operations in 2015. The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line became fully operational in June 2020. Our province has some of the best geology in the world for carbon storage.
CCUS is a unique opportunity in the energy transition because it is a horizontal. Oil & gas companies use it to lower emissions and so do other industries, such as cement. Heidelberg Materials and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are advancing their work on the first full-scale CCUS facility for the cement industry globally. They are working in partnership with the governments of Alberta and Canada.
Hydrogen will be an exciting new chapter in Alberta and Canada's energy story. My government released Alberta's Hydrogen Roadmap in 2021. In April of this year, Air Products announced plans to build its first commercial-scale hydrogen refueling station in Canada near Edmonton. Suncor and ATCO are collaborating on a potential clean hydrogen project in Alberta. Dow plans to build a massive net-zero carbon emissions integrated ethylene cracker and derivatives site in our province. Ammonia projects are underway to ship our future hydrogen production to global markets.
Alberta has the fastest growing renewable electricity sector in Canada in wind and solar because we're one of the only places in North America that has an open energy market. Major global companies that are looking to access carbon credits have been investing billions of dollars of capital into the province.
What about critical minerals?
Alberta basically has the entire periodic table under the ground. As Premier, we adopted a new critical minerals strategy and we have incredible data available, because of the tens of thousands of oil and gas wells that have been drilled since the 1940s.
The province has kept all of the core samples and data on our rich mineral content. We're making all of that data easily accessible in the public domain so that prospectors can have an easier time identifying where to develop in Alberta.
Right now, an Alberta company is quite advanced in patented technology that can take brine water from abandoned oil wells and convert it to extract lithium.
The world is on the cusp of a huge expansion of nuclear power with small modular reactors. Here in Western Canada, we have the second largest uranium reserves on Earth.
Working in collaboration and partnerships is a key theme of the WPC. Why did you create the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation?
Five years ago, we would have been focused on consent from Indigenous communities as being the key barrier to major projects. But the Supreme Court of Canada provided a lot of clarity on that issue in 2021.
The Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation was initially backed by a billion dollars of the provincial government, to help underwrite and provide loan guarantees to Indigenous communities who don't have the equity. That was the challenge, because without enough equity, Indigenous communities that wanted to buy into major energy projects couldn't access commercial rates of credit.
Now, equity participation by First Nations is a new standard for energy projects in Alberta. For greenfield projects, if companies want an injection of capital, increasingly they know they have to go to Indigenous communities. This has radically changed the landscape. One of the biggest obstacles to resource projects in Canada five years ago has now become an opportunity.
What should governments be doing better to facilitate growth?
In the Canadian context it would be three things—clarity, speed and smart regulations. The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything when it comes to energy investment. Canada has responded with some very substantial incentives. In some areas, they are scored as more generous than the IRA.
This is positive, but there continues to be a lack of clarity about how to access federal programs or when they will roll out. The federal government needs to pick up the pace on this.
What are the biggest takeaways you want international attendees to leave WPC with?
You cannot have long term plans in the energy space that do not include Canada. We have the resources and are a free-market, liberal democracy. We have the brain power, the drive, a sound immigration system and offer strong incentives to invest.
In many ways, Calgary is the energy capital of North America. It's a city of the future and the entrepreneurial West – and still a place with a bit of frontier mentality where people just get 'er done.
I hope that all of our WPC guests get a moment to go up to the mountains and see some of the most beautiful sceneries on the face of the Earth. We do pretty well at being a major global energy producer and a technology champion, and also at maintaining one of the most inspiring environments in the world.