Canadian energy takes back seat at Houston oil conference

It was 11:40 a.m. Monday when Canada was finally mentioned during a panel discussion at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston — and even then, it was lumped together with a list of other countries.

The context was liquefied natural gas (LNG). Not the oilsands, or the need for a pipeline to get Canada’s oil to market.

That’s a marked contrast from last year’s event, when Canada was mentioned in the opening press conference held by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as being an important contributor in the growth of oil production by non-OPEC producers.

The reason for Canada’s absence this year surfaced during the question and answer session at Monday’s IEA session where it released its five-year outlook; it goes back to the lack of certainty on pipeline infrastructure, which has compromised investment.

The fact that Canada, with the third largest oil reserves in the world, will rank behind countries including Brazil, Guyana, Iraq and Libya in terms of oil production growth is more than troubling.

And the picture is not more encouraging on the LNG front.

While LNG Canada — a $40 billion project in northern B.C. led by Royal Dutch Shell — is going ahead. there are signs that Canada’s role in the global LNG market is unlikely to be significant as LNG exports grow south of the border and from Australia and Qatar.

As Jack Fusco of Houston-based Cheniere pointed out on Monday, growth in LNG has surpassed all expectations. It has arguably become a global commodity within a much shorter time frame than anyone would have anticipated even three years ago, with France’s TOTAL S.A. estimating the LNG market will grow by five per cent a year from now until 2040.

Much emphasis was made on the importance of natural gas — and LNG — in addressing carbon emissions, in addition to other conversations throughout the day on the integral role of technology and innovation in the context of achieving a low carbon energy pivot and addressing the sector’s environmental footprint.

The presence of this Formula-E (E for electric) racing car helps send a fairly strong message that the energy sector of even five years ago is not the energy sector of today, Yedlin writes. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The shift to tech in the energy sector

One could say this year’s conference is one intended to demonstrate that energy, the economy and the environment are not mutually exclusive.

As testament to the importance of technology in boosting production, and in decreasing both costs and carbon emissions, this year’s CERAWeek has a much larger representation of the major technology and software companies, as well as many start-ups. The schedule includes upwards of 150 presentations by those companies and their customers.

The presence of a hipster coffee bar greeting the delegates as they come into the tech space — along with a Formula-E (E for electric) racing car — sends a fairly strong message that the energy sector of even five years ago is not the energy sector of today.

That is certainly being underscored by the number of sessions that have been — and will be devoted to — the issue of responsible and sustainable energy development.

It surfaced during a panel discussion between OPEC secretary general Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo and IEA executive director Fatih Birol, and formed the basis of a session that included Suncor’s incoming chief executive officer, Mark Little, and former U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz.

There was more than a bit of irony with both Little and Moniz on the stage together, because Moniz was a member of the Obama administration that denied the Keystone XL permit.

Mark Little, incoming CEO of Suncor, speaks at Houston’s CERAweek energy conference on Monday. (CERAweek by IHS Markit)

But when it came to the issue of emissions and the economy, there didn’t appear to be any disagreement.

Little talked of the importance of collaborating to find creative solutions addressing the climate change and carbon challenges — and highlighted the success of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) as an example of where meaningful industry collaboration is working.

Moniz spoke of needing to address emissions more broadly, in the context of pricing and the choice of fuel sources for electricity generation.

The challenges of reducing emissions

And that really speaks to the demand side of the equation.

While switching from coal to natural gas, and including renewables in the electrical grid is important from an emissions perspective, it’s the fixed transportation elements that are part of life every day around the world — trucks, trains, ships and planes — that are much more challenging to address.

The electrification of these transportation options, as Birol pointed out, is much more difficult to do compared with cars. And even then, he said, until the electricity generated to charge the car isn’t sourced from a coal-fired facility, choosing an electric vehicle will not make an impact.

That the conversation even happened on the opening day of the conference, with energy-sector heavyweights, is a example of the different feel at this year’s conference.

The larger tech-related cohort, the number of delegates attending its presentations, and the fact that climate change and emissions are being discussed more openly suggests an industry that is no longer defensive, but rather one that is determined to shape the new energy future.

  • This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.

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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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