Growing Indigenous ownership, bigger spending and CCS: What to watch in Canadian energy in 2023

Responsibly developed oil and gas resources are needed in global markets

By Deborah Jaremko
Crystal Smith, Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation. Photo courtesy Haisla Nation

There are continued signs of light in Canada’s oil and gas industry as the new year begins.  

Nearing completion are major pipelines that will help ease the ongoing global energy crisis that deepened following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

Industry leadership by Indigenous communities is rising, and momentum is building for technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS) to make a meaningful impact in reducing emissions.

Already, the strength of Canada’s resource sectors like oil and gas is helping offset slower growth in other industries, according to the OECD’s latest economic outlook. 

But in a world short of energy supply, everyday costs are rising at a pace not seen in decades. 

It could get even worse this year as it becomes more difficult for Europe to secure additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies, the OECD said. 

Canada’s responsibly developed resources are needed in global markets. Here’s what to watch in 2023. 

Indigenous ownership momentum  

Indigenous leadership in Canadian oil and gas is set to continue growing after a landmark 2022.  

Last year, a total of 39 communities in B.C. and Alberta launched investment in major pipelines, while two proposed Indigenous-owned LNG projects advanced through the regulatory process.  

Within days, a B.C. government decision is expected on whether the Haisla Nation and partner Pembina Pipeline can proceed with Cedar LNG, one of the largest Indigenous-owned infrastructure projects in Canada’s history. 

“They are breaking trail for the rest of us,” Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, said earlier this year 

“Indigenous people are in support of major projects. We must do this responsibly, continuing to make sure that we have the highest environmental standards.”   

In March, 16 Indigenous communities along the route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline announced a partnership with TC Energy to become 10 per cent owners once it is up and running in 2023.  

In September, 23 First Nations and Métis communities in northern Alberta announced they will take a nearly 12 per cent ownership stake in seven Enbridge oil sands pipelines.  

“It’s amazing, not only for us,” said Justin Bourque, CEO of the Willow Lake Métis Nation and president of Athabasca Indigenous Investments, which will manage the group’s ownership share.  

“We believe that through our good work, through our transparent and accountable operations, we will elevate the collective.” 

More spending and more jobs 

Across the country, Canada’s top 10 oil and gas producers alone plan to spend $23 billion on development in 2023, up from $20 billion in 2022.  

Part of that is drilling activity, which is expected to increase to the highest level since 2018, reaching 6,409 wells in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors (CAOEC).  

Each active drilling rig adds 220 direct and indirect jobs to the economy, the CAOEC says.  

Drilling is expected to support 42,350 jobs this year, nearly double the jobs activity supported in 2019.  

In 2020, Canada’s oil and gas industry supported nearly 600,000 jobs across the country, according to the federal government.  

Completing major pipelines 

By the end of 2023, construction could be complete on both the Trans Mountain Expansion and Coastal GasLink pipelines, setting up Canada for the first major deliveries of its responsibly produced oil and gas to the world.  

Overall, Coastal GasLink is 80 per cent complete and TMX has reached 73 per cent completion, according to the latest project updates.  

“As Coastal GasLink enters into its final year of construction, we are on track to deliver cleaner, Canadian-made energy to the world at a time it is needed most,” the project said in a statement.   

Coastal GasLink will deliver natural gas produced in northeast B.C. to Canada’s first LNG export terminal, being built at the Port of Kitimat.    

TMX will significantly increase capacity for Canada to export oil from Alberta through the Westridge Marine Terminal at Burnaby, B.C.   

Both projects will help meet growing demand for oil and gas, particularly in Asia. 

Momentum building for CCS 

This year is expected to bring more clarity around new carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in Canada’s oil and gas industry.  

CCS works by capturing CO2 emissions at industrial sites and transporting it by pipeline for injection and permanent storage deep underground. Canada is already home to about 15 per cent of world CCS capacity, despite being responsible for just 1.6 per cent of world emissions. 

A new wave of CCS projects is proposed in Alberta, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) noted recently.  

Seven new projects with known capacity and commissioning dates – plus expansions of existing projects – have the potential to increase Alberta’s CCS capacity to about 56 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030. 

This is equivalent to 22 per cent of CO2 emissions in Alberta in 2020, the CER said. 

One of the major new CCS projects being advanced is by the Pathways Alliance, a joint initiative by companies representing 95 per cent of oil sands production. A new agreement with the province of Alberta enables Pathways to “immediately start” detailed evaluation of its proposed storage hub, which would be one of the world’s largest CCS projects.  

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