Message from CHOA President Caralyn Bennett


Adapting for the Future 

Industry Context 

Hans Rosling is a Swedish professor known within our industry for his TED talk “The Magic Washing Machine”.  In his presentation, Hans talks about the introduction of the washing machine and the hours of drudgery it saved washing clothes by hand. Adoption of the washing machine is a metaphor for the many benefits associated with the transition to oil and gas, a more dense and more easily distributable source of energy.  As a cheap affordable energy source, oil and gas have been primary drivers in elevating the quality of life pulling many people around the world above the poverty line. 

Most of us in industry are aware that Canada is the 4th largest producer of oil globally.  Canada exports a little more than half of the five and a half million barrels of oil per day that we produce, most of which is heavy oil and oil sands.  Oil is therefore not only important in the global context; it is important to Canada and, surely, it is important to Alberta. 

As we transition to decarbonize our energy sources and end use, a balanced conversation needs to be mindful of 

  • the energy poverty that remains around the world today, 
  • the future energy needs of a growing population, 
  • the desire for many to improve their quality of life, thereby increasing energy use per capita, and   
  • the high cost of emerging energies, many of which are technologically and commercially immature. 

 When we combine these humanitarian thoughts with other challenges such as 

  • the fact that oil and gas are ubiquitously embedded in our lives, 
  • the fact that changing complex energy systems, that must remain necessarily reliable, is no small feat, 
  • the fact that transition to a less dense energy source fights economic theory and human nature, and 
  • the fact that research indicates that energy transitions takes a very long time,

we can find many reasons for why it is highly likely that oil and gas will be needed for decades.  What we do is crucially important and our industry is the energy incumbent in a highly complex world that depends in large part on all we have to offer.  

To quote John Graham, the head of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) “simple divestment is actually a short on human ingenuity”.  Humanity has demonstrated time and time again that we can rise to meet challenges developing the necessary technologies to overcome barriers and adapt.  The rapid development of COVID vaccines provides a recent example but one closer to home would be our industry’s development of the SAGD recovery process aimed at unleashing vast resources to the benefit of Canada.   

Thankfully, John Graham and the CPPIB are standing with our industry merging Energy and Resources with Power and Renewables teams to create a single 18 billion dollar platform called the Sustainable Energy Group.  They will be focused on investments in renewables, conventional energy and innovation and they are committed to investing across the entire energy ecosystem including active investments in Alberta.   

Still, no matter how proud we are of our operations and how we, as an industry, work to deliver physically and socially responsible product, we can’t be complacent.  We can’t bury our heads in the sand expecting the challenges at hand to drop away. 

Our Opportunities 

Despite the many uncertainties of our times and, this includes the uncertainty in the staying power of cumulative rapidly evolving public policy and legislation, it is clear that sustainability strategies and a focus on technology and innovation represent opportunities where we can take action and be a part of creating our industry’s future. 

Three bright lights: 

First, our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation and Indigenous inclusion.  Companies are embracing Call to Action 92.  Relative to many industries, this is surely one of our strengths.  You may not be aware but roughly 6% of the oil and gas workforce is Indigenous, double the Canadian workforce average.  Notably, in last couple of years, this strength has shown up as vocal Indigenous support for our shared oil and gas projects.  

Second, we are digitalizing our businesses.  The internet of things and automation are taking hold within industry.  Companies like AltaML, Ambyint, CRUX OCM and Galatea Technologies are working with producers to develop digital strategies, reduce costs and improve operational, financial and sustainability performance. 

Third, producers and technology vendors are focused on cleantech, technology development and innovation that has the ability to shift our environmental performance and really move the dial for Canadian oil and gas.  Today, we already have technologies that are technically viable with many more at advanced stages of development.  As an example, Canada is a world leader in CCUS with the capacity to sequester 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year and carbon capture companies like Svante are working with industry – Cenovus, Chevron, Suncor and Total – on a progressive path towards commercialization. 

Plus, let’s not forget our inherent advantages; we have the reservoirs to sequester carbon and we have the talented workforce to deliver on these projects.  Most recently, Advantage Oil and Gas and their strategic partner announced the development of advanced modular carbon capture and storage technology that recovers approximately 90% of emissions at a cost of less than $50/tonne.   

There are proximal solutions right in front of us.   

We can expect critics to respond that this simply isn’t enough and that 75-85% of emissions results from the end use combustion of our products, but as an industry, we are already working towards customer-centric product design and sales. 

Wapahki is an Indigenous owned transportation company focused on delivering bitumen to non-combustion global end users in road building, textiles, waterproofing and sealants.  While asphalt today is a viable non-combustion end use, industry initiatives like Alberta Innovates Bitumen Beyond Combustion are investigating the possibility of utilizing bitumen as a feedstock for the production of carbon fibre and to extract critical minerals like Vanadium for use in battery technology.   

As an example of the potential for this new customer centric focus, last year Seven Generations had their natural gas production certified as Responsible Energy by Equitable Origin and, as a result, they were able to acquire a preferential purchase contract with Quebec distributor Energir.   

Again, there ARE proximal solutions right in front of us. 

Our Organization 

This is the thirty fifth year anniversary of the CHOA.   

Our organization was created by heavy oil and oil sands operating companies and their suppliers to help facilitate the development of Canada’s heavy oil and oil sands resources.  Originally that focused principally on developing the technologies to commercially extract these vast resources and produced technologies like CHOPS and SAGD. 

Today we exist to more broadly strengthen Canada’s energy sector and we work to accelerate the careers of our members through knowledge sharing and relationship building activities in heavy oil and oil sands. 

Our organization has embraced the vision for Canada to be the most responsible and innovative energy resource developer in the world.  As a non-partisan organization the CHOA is here to create opportunities and space that can spark the shifts and the advances our industry needs. 

We want to thank our growing list of corporate and event sponsors.  Without your financial support, we would not exist.   

We want to thank our members for sticking with us and for continuing to engage and provide us with the feedback we need to deliver impactful quality programming.  We are pleased to share that our membership has grown from a post 2014 low of about 1200 members to more than 2000 members today. 

We also, want to recognize our many volunteers for their diligence, care and time offered in support of our organization and our members.  This past year we restructured the organization and created a volunteer pool that we actively reach out to for a wide range of support.  Please reach out to any one of the board members or Jill Sugars, our Operations Manager, if you would like to be included in this pool and receive notices via Teams when we are looking for help.  

The CHOA would be remiss if we didn’t  recognize and thank Jill Sugars, our sole full-time employee.  

As many of you are aware, our organization relies upon Jill day in and day out.  She is at the heart of everything we do.  The board of directors is tremendously grateful for Jill’s graciousness, insightfulness, adaptability and, of course, all of her efforts working with sponsors, members and volunteers. 

Stay tuned for our upcoming content and events.  While our COVID de-risked golf tournament on June 10th is sold out, by popular demand we are contemplating a follow-up for September.  We have a series of 3 podcasts coming up, sponsored by Fluor and supported by our partner JWN.  We are planning a special anniversary edition of the Journal and, we are working on a follow-up to our recent Leading Towards Net Zero event. 

We look forward to seeing you virtually and hopefully otherwise as we head into summer.   

Stronger together,
Scroll to Top