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World Petroleum Congress kicks off in Calgary with energy transition theme

Oil and gas leaders from around the world are meeting in Calgary for the start of the 24th World Petroleum Congress this week. The theme of the the gathering this year is Energy Transition: The Path to Net Zero.

A number of heads of prominent oil and gas firms will also be at the event, including ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods and Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser.

Around 5,000 delegates from more than 100 countries are expected to attend the conference, which begins Sunday.

The Chair of the World Petroleum Council in Canada says they will be discussing what companies and countries are doing to help move towards the goal of decarbonizing existing production of oil and gas.

“We will look at carbon capture and storage. We will look to hydrogen, methane reduction, those types of technologies. But many of the companies have since expanded into other business segments, including wind and solar, and those types of things and they’re looking at a comprehensive energy system,” said Richard Masson World Petroleum Council Canada chair.

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Masson said they will being having a broad dialogue about what the energy transition means on a global basis.

“Many of the companies and countries are in the developing world where the challenges are different and greater because they don’t have adequate energy and affordable prices for their people yet, so we’re going to talk about that big picture, too, because we often think about it from a western point of view where we can just buy an electric car and we will be better off. That isn’t possible in much of the world,” Masson said.

The executive director of the Pembina Institute says the energy transition theme is a positive change.

“I’m hoping there’s conversations about what that means over the next five years or 10 years, and not the way some have framed it, which is by 2050 we need to get to net zero, because that’s way too far in the future,” said Chris Severson-Baker.

He added the entire world is moving away from some of the traditional uses for oil and gas and the companies that understand that are the ones that have a lot to gain.

“I feel like as Albertans we are kind of missing the signal the rest of the world is starting to send. There is going to be an end date to the demand for the products that we produce. If we were listening very carefully for that signal we would be doing things differently today than we are doing. We are trying to preserve the status quo, but really what we ought to be doing is decarbonizing the industry very quickly so as demand declines and the world puts a premium on lower carbon sources of oil and gas that we are actually competitive,” Severson-Baker said

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He will be speaking  to the WPC crowd on Tuesday about how Canadians can position themselves to be in a better position in the future.

“We want to be one of the places that still supplies them with oil and gas as they are actively decarbonizing, and we also want to be supplying them products and services and sources of energy that are net zero as well,”

He hopes the report from the International Energy Agency that points to peak demand for oil and gas by 2030 is addressed at the meeting, adding companies are going to need stronger regulations to push them to reduce emissions.

“A commitment isn’t a strong enough driver for these companies to actually make those massive investments in decarbonization, and the economic incentives that are put on the table by governments aren’t enough to compel companies to make those investments either. It’s going to take all three of those things working together to actually start to see the real investments occurring,” Severson-Baker said.

In Alberta, the Pathways Alliance, which is a consortium of six companies representing 95 per cent of the oilsands production has stated its goal of working towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Masson agrees it’s going to take a combination of talented people, capital and government policies, but said it’s going to take time to move away from oil and gas.

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“We need to be able to provide viable alternatives that meet people’s needs and affordable prices reliably. So as we transition from where we are to where we are going, we need to be able to devote our energy to reducing the carbon intensity of the oil and gas we produce,”  Masson said.

“We need to be able to apply the best quality resources to existing production. We have to reduce carbon footprint while we move to other energy sources. I think it’s going to be a big topic over the course of the Congress this week.”

When the WPC was held in Calgary in 2000, over a 1,000 protestors demonstrated at the event.

A counter congress rally is planned for Sunday afternoon on Stephen Avenue Mall, and will be attended by members of Calgary Climate Hub, Fridays for Future Calgary and For Our Kids Alberta

Dr. Joe Vipond, co-chair of the Calgary Climate Hub said he’s excited that the WPC is acknowledging the climate crisis needs to be dealt with but he said more action needs to be taken.

“The concern that our organization has is that, instead of looking at the words that comes out of executives mouths, you have to look at the budgets, and to date all oil companies, especially in the last year, have reiterated their commitment to the fossil fuel world and to resisting efforts to transition,” Vipond said.

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Worsening disasters here at home and around the world are telling us we need to take action sooner, he said.

“Rarely do corporations do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. They generally do the right thing because they are regulated to do so. So we need to have governments regulating the industry. The industry needs to be called to account, to make sure everybody knows to this point they have not been good faith actors on the climate crisis and, as such, they need to take responsibility and play a better role and that includes not lobbying the government for weaker regulations,” Vipond said.

The congress will kick off with an opening ceremony on Sunday at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre, featuring a keynote address from Canada’s federal energy minister, John Wilkinson.

The rest of the conference will be concentrated at the BMO Centre, the Big Four Building and the Nutrien Centre at the Stampede grounds.

Many Alberta ministers will be at the event as well.

“Alberta is Canada’s energy province. Oil and gas will continue to be a major part of the world’s energy mix for decades to come. I believe more than ever that our province can help shape the global energy future and that is why I am delighted that we will be able to host so many global energy leaders in Calgary,” said energy and minerals minister Brian Jean.

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“We all know the importance of reaching carbon neutrality and we are all running as fast as we can to get there. Alberta is committed to cutting emissions while keeping energy secure and affordable.”

The city expects the event to generate approximately $88 million in economic value.

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