The End of Un­cer­tainty

Alberta Oil - - EDITOR’S LOG - NICK WIL­SON nwil­son@al­ber­taoil­magazine.com

THE FED­ERAL GOVERN­MENT HAS

pledged to put into law a mora­to­rium that bans oil tankers from north­ern B.C.’s coastal wa­ters. Dis­turbingly, it won’t rule out ex­tend­ing the ban to LNG car­ri­ers, or re­fined prod­uct ves­sels. Nor will it de­fine the area that the ban will cover. In­deed, it could ex­tend far­ther south than al­ready pro­posed, ac­cord­ing to a Trans­port Canada spokesper­son, who said noth­ing would be ruled out while the con­sul­ta­tion process is on­go­ing.

It gets worse. The govern­ment will not pro­pose a time frame for com­plet­ing its re­view, say­ing only that the Prime Min­is­ter is keen to wrap up the con­sul­ta­tion this year. But a year is a long time in the en­ergy mar­kets. A year’s de­lay can re­sult in can­celed projects, and there’s al­ready a back­log of re­finer­ies, gas ex­port ter­mi­nals, pipe­lines and LNG plants that are all wait­ing for a green light.

It’s good that Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is lis­ten­ing to the con­cerns of Bri­tish Columbians who work in fish­ing and tourism and are wor­ried about the pos­si­bil­ity of the oil in­dus­try im­pact­ing their liveli­hoods. But be­ing a leader means mak­ing de­ci­sions, and set­ting a date for the end of the mora­to­rium con­sul­ta­tions should be one of the first he makes. De­ci­sive­ness and clar­ity should also be in­cluded in Ottawa’s plan to judge up­stream car­bon emis­sions while con­sid­er­ing pipe­line per­mits—it also lack de­tails and a de­fined time frame. Mar­kets, plan­ners and in­vestors need cer­tainty. It would be ironic if B.C.’s pro­posed re­finer­ies, which would be among the world’s green­est, couldn’t take fi­nal in­vest­ment de­ci­sions due to a pro­longed en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­ta­tion.

Next year, Canada’s clean­est re­fin­ery comes on line—in Al­berta’s In­dus­trial Heart­land de­vel­op­ment, north­east of Ed­mon­ton. Stur­geon Re­fin­ery will process crude from one of the world’s high­est-stan­dard reg­u­la­tory ju­ris­dic­tions and in­cor­po­rate the lat­est car­bon cap­ture tech­nol­ogy. The CO2 will then travel down the Al­berta Car­bon Trunk Line (ACTL), a 240-kilome­ter line run­ning from Cen­tral to South­ern Al­berta. ACTL aims to han­dle up to 15 mil­lion tons of CO2 per day from other plants. Nearby is Shell’s Quest pro­ject, which cap­tures car­bon from its bitumen up­grader and buries it deep un­der­ground.

This brings me to my se­cond point. All en­ergy sources should be treated equally and com­pete on a level play­ing field. East­ern re­finer­ies don’t cap­ture car­bon, their feed­stocks from Africa and the Middle East don’t face the car­bon tax that Al­ber­tan crude does, and pro­tes­tors don’t picket ports as oil ar­rives. The en­ergy in­dus­try needs con­sis­tency as much as it needs cer­tainty. Achiev­ing this will re­quire na­tional lead­er­ship and the political will to get provinces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties work­ing to­gether.

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