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Guest Column: Canada’s offshore oil and gas industry is the ticket to clean growth for Newfoundland and Labrador

By Kieran Hanley, Executive Director for the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA).

The success of our offshore oil and gas industry is critical to Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy. We know this. But what may be surprising is that it is also a centrepiece of the province’s clean growth strategy.

Let’s be clear: urgent action is required worldwide if we are to meet the objectives of the Paris agreement. But such fundamental changes in the economy, its infrastructure, and the habits of consumers that will be required will not happen overnight. Oil and gas represents upwards of 60% of global energy consumption. Demand for it doesn’t just go away. Objectively, if the world has any hope of meeting greenhouse gas emissions targets, changes within the oil and gas industry have to be part of the solution.

This is the “transition” that we keep hearing about, and Canada can play a major role in helping to lead this shift. Its offshore industry puts us in an excellent position in this regard. We are lucky in that the type of oil in our offshore is the least impactful from an environmental perspective to process. And the GHG intensity of our operations are 30 per cent below the international average. This is to say that it is within our reach to set a global standard for the decarbonization of the industry. In this time of transition, reducing global emissions by providing the world with the most environmentally sound oil is a valuable contribution to the fight against climate change.

And there are substantial economic and clean growth prospects associated with that, with immediate opportunities for investment and improvement. An offshore wind farm — Canada’s first — could lower our offshore assets.

Ditto for the abundance of clean energy we have flowing from Muskrat Falls. Either would achieve significant emissions reductions and represent major clean growth projects that would get people back to work and propel our industry into a new era of low-carbon operations.

Beyond such major projects, there are lots of things we can do to throughout the industry’s vast supply chain. Zero-emissions supply vessels. Electrified ports. Major energy efficiency initiatives. Digitalized and remote operations. These activities represent clean, green economic growth. They are enormous cleantech research, development, and commercialization opportunities that can be exported worldwide and expanded through different ocean industries once commercialized.

We know this because we have already seen the pattern play out.

Because of the high environmental standards our offshore industry and its stakeholders have collectively put in place and adhered to, we have become a centre of excellence in the provision of products and services that help us characterize and monitor the environment. Our province is home to an unnaturally high number of SMEs with world class technologies — using lasers, radar, sonar, and hi-def video in the skies and under the water — that help us understand what’s happening in the ocean. This expertise, which we export all over the world, would not have been developed without the offshore oil and gas industry. This past success is indicative of the opportunities before us if we embrace becoming the least carbon intensive oil producing region on the planet.

Further, you might have missed it but Newfoundland and Labrador has committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The offshore industry’s support of this policy has the potential to dramatically alter the landscape of (and diversify) our economy. With new resources to finance a slew of new major emissions reduction projects, Newfoundland and Labrador could rapidly transition into one of the cleanest jurisdictions in the world with one of the most advanced clean growth economies.

But none of this will come to pass without immediate support for Canada’s offshore oil and gas industry. A future without it would be very grim for Newfoundland and Labrador indeed, and would extinguish our best chance at becoming an international clean growth leader.

We are in the midst of an energy transition.

Canada has an opportunity to be a leader in that transition. The solutions we develop here can set the global standard, and our expertise and technologies can be exported worldwide for the betterment of the planet and our own economy.

This a worthy pursuit that we can all support.

Source: The Telegram | This text was excerpted from the media outlet cited on May 29, 2020 and is provided to Noia members for information purposes only. Any opinion expressed therein is neither attributable to nor endorsed by Noia.