Carbon emissions per barrel that are still 70% above the global average, and still on the rise, are putting Alberta tar sands/oil sands producers on a “collision course” with Canada’s climate targets and with changing expectations in global markets, the Pembina Institute reports in a study released Wednesday.
“The oil and gas industry has made big contributions to Canadian society: providing jobs, technology and research excellence, while warming homes, fuelling cars, and powering our electricity grids,” Pembina writes in the executive summary of the report.
But “today, the oil and gas sector is facing unprecedented pressures. While dramatic fluctuations in the price of energy commodities are not new, increasing automation, adoption of new disruptive technologies, shifting market demands, and climate commitments are reshaping the future of this sector. Business-as-usual no longer applies—significant changes are necessary.”
Pembina notes that the tar sands/oil sands are Canada’s fastest-growing emissions source, impairing the country’s ability to meet its 2030 carbon reduction targets and placing the industry “on a clear collision course with Canada’s plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050.” While carbon performance varies widely across producers and products, and the industry has reduced carbon intensity by 4.0 to 21% since 2009, “absolute carbon emissions from the oilsands continue to increase overall, as growth in production outpaces gains from reductions in per-barrel intensity.”
While head-to-head comparisons get complicated, Pembina estimates a barrel of Canadian oil still produces 70% more emissions than the global average.
The report calls on the Alberta and federal governments to “recognize the willingness of leading companies to adopt aggressive decarbonization targets, as well as mounting investor pressure to decarbonize the sector, and implement policies that will drive toward carbon-neutral—or even carbon-negative—oilsands production.” It recommends strong decarbonization regulations for the industry, clear sector emission targets for 2030 and 2050 with five-year increments, an “innovative ecosystem to deliver breakthrough technologies”, better emissions monitoring and reporting, and “effective energy regulators” at both levels of government.