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Canadian Energy Centre

Lessons from rising tide of Indigenous ownership in Canadian oil and gas shared in Norway


4 minute read

Indigenous Resource Network executive director John Desjarlais (right) and Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre speak at the Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, Norway on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. Photo courtesy Indigenous Resource Network.

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Since 2022, more than 75 First Nations and Métis communities in Alberta and British Columbia have agreed to ownership stakes in energy projects including the Coastal GasLink pipeline and major oil sands transportation networks.     

The city of Tromsø, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, is known as one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights.  

For John Desjarlais, it was also a place to share lessons from the growing leadership of Indigenous communities in Canadian resource development projects.  

In late January, Desjarlais – executive director of the Indigenous Resource Network – attended the Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, speaking on a panel with leaders including Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre. 

“Sharing some of the examples across borders is important. It reflects Indigenous peoples’ values on kinship and reciprocity,” says Desjarlais, a professional engineer and member of the Nehinaw Cree Métis community. 

Indigenous people around the world including the Sami in northern Norway face similar socio-economic challenges to Indigenous communities in Canada, Desjarlais says. 

“They want to develop on their own terms. We want to share those tips on how we all move forward,” he says. 

“It is good business to partner with Indigenous partners. We’re starting to recognize not only the social value of reconciliation but also the business value. I think that’s happening much more quickly and progressively in Canada and that is being noted by our international allies.” 

From liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to oil and gas pipelines, natural gas-fired power plants and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to reduce emissions, more Indigenous communities in Canada are taking on a leadership role 

Since 2022, more than 75 First Nations and Métis communities in Alberta and British Columbia have agreed to ownership stakes in energy projects including the Coastal GasLink pipeline and major oil sands transportation networks.     

“Those communities are moving forward in leaps and bounds in terms of their social impact,” Desjarlais says.  

Each community can take their own approach to how invest the funds from their participation in resource projects, according to Justin Bourque, president of Athabasca Indigenous Investments. 

The company represents 23 Indigenous communities in Alberta that became approximately 12 per cent owners of Enbridge oil sands pipelines in 2022. 

“The different partners have done what works for their particular community and circumstance,” Bourque told CEC following the one-year anniversary of the deal.    

“[Some] have used the funds disbursed to them to pay for more teachers or educational opportunities and building out their social infrastructure in their communities. One community is building a strategy around improving the quality of life for the elderly. Others have used the money to acquire lands or build infrastructure for their communities.” 

Desjarlais says it is important to share these stories with Canada’s global partners.  

“We don’t feed just national markets, we feed international markets. It’s important to showcase how we do things; that there is some best practice that is happening here, that we deliver responsible resource development,” he says.  

“We are in a lot of different places to inspire that confidence that we can develop at the speed and the rate that the world needs and in line with sustainability.” 


Canada’s advantage as the world’s demand for plastic continues to grow

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

‘The demand for plastics reflects how essential they are in our lives’

From the clothes on your back to the containers for household products to the pipes and insulation in your home, plastics are interwoven into the fabric of day-to-day life for most Canadians.

And that reliance is projected to grow both in Canada and around the world in the next three decades

The Global Plastics Outlook, published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), forecasts the use of plastics globally will nearly triple by 2060, driven by economic and population growth.  

The use of plastics is projected to double in OECD countries like Canada, the United States and European nations, but the largest increases will take place in Asia and Africa. 

“The demand for plastics reflects how essential they are in our lives, whether it is packaging, textiles, building materials or medical equipment,” says Christa Seaman, vice-president, plastics with the Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), which represents Canada’s plastics producers.  

She says as countries look to meet climate and sustainability goals, demand for plastic will grow. 

“Plastics in the market today demonstrate their value to our society. Plastics are used to make critical components for solar panels and wind turbines. But they also can play a role in reducing weight in transportation or in ensuring goods that are transported have less weight in their packaging or in their products.” 

Canada produces about $35 billion worth of plastic resin and plastic products per year, or over five per cent of Canadian manufacturing sales, according to a 2019 report published by the federal government.  

Seaman says Canadian plastic producers have competitive advantages that position them to grow as demand rises at home and abroad. In Alberta, a key opportunity is the abundant supply of natural gas used to make plastic resin.  

“As industry and consumer expectations shift for production to reduce emissions, Canada, and particularly Alberta, are extremely well placed to meet increased demand thanks to its supply of low-carbon feedstock. Going forward, production with less emissions is going to be important for companies,” Seaman says.  

“You can see that with Dow Chemical’s decision to spend $8.8 billion on a net zero facility in Alberta.” 

While modern life would not be possible without plastics, the CIAC says there needs to be better post-use management of plastic products including advanced recycling, or a so-called “circular economy” where plastics are seen as a resource or feedstock for new products, not a waste. 

Some companies have already started making significant investments to generate recyclable plastics.  

For example, Inter Pipeline Ltd.’s $4.3 billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex near Edmonton started operating in 2023. It produces a recyclable plastic called polypropylene from propane, with 65 per cent lower emissions than the global average thanks to the facility’s integrated design. 

Achieving a circular economy – where 90 per cent of post-consumer plastic waste is diverted or recycled – would benefit Canada’s economy, according to the CIAC.  

Deloitte study, commissioned by Environment & Climate Change Canada, estimated diverting or reusing 90 per cent of post-consumer plastic waste by 2030 will save $500 million annually while creating 42,000 direct and indirect jobs. It would also cut Canada’s annual CO2 emissions by 1.8 megatonnes.  

Right now, about 85 per cent of plastics end up in Canada’s landfills. To reach the 90 per cent diversion rate, Seaman says Canada must improve its infrastructure to collect and process the plastic waste currently being landfilled. 

But she also says the industry rather than municipalities need to take responsibility for recycling plastic waste.  

“This concept is referred to as extended producer responsibility. Municipalities have the responsibility for managing recycling within a waste management system. Given the competing costs and priorities, they don’t have the incentive to invest into recycling infrastructure when landfill space was the most cost-effective solution for them,” she says.  

“Putting that responsibility on the producers who put the products on the market makes the most sense…The industry is adapting, and we hope government policy will recognize this opportunity for Canada to meet our climate goals while growing our economy.” 

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Decarbonization deal opens new chapter in Alberta-Japan relationship

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

Agreement represents a homecoming for JAPEX, which first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978

new agreement that will see Japan Petroleum Exploration Company (JAPEX) invest in decarbonization opportunities in Alberta made history while also being rooted in the past, in the eyes of Gary Mar. 

JAPEX is seeking to develop projects in carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and bioenergy. It’s part of the company’s JAPEX2050 strategy toward carbon neutrality. 

“This new endeavour is a great opportunity that demonstrates the world is changing but the relationships endure,” says Mar, the province’s former trade envoy to Asia and the current CEO of the Canada West Foundation 

“Alberta’s very first international office was opened in Tokyo in 1981. And we have built a tremendous soft infrastructure that includes partnerships between a dozen Alberta and Japanese universities.” 

For JAPEX, the agreement represents something of a homecoming for the company that first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978 and operated one of the first in situ (or drilled) oil projects for nearly two decades before selling its stake in 2018. 

We are now aiming to come back to Alberta and contribute to its decarbonization,” JAPEX president of overseas business Tomomi Yamada said in a statement.  

Mar says the memorandum of understanding signed this March between JAPEX and the crown corporation Invest Alberta stems from a strong relationship built over decades.  

“You cant be considered a reliable partner for a new venture if you havent been a reliable partner for decades in the past,” says Mar.  

Economies change and worlds needs change but strong relationships are important factor in whom you do business with.” 

Alberta’s established CCS infrastructure has already attracted new investment, including Air Products’ $1.6-billion net zero hydrogen complex and Dow Chemicals’ $8.8-billion net zero petrochemical complex 

Mar sees JAPEX’s deal with Invest Alberta opening a whole new market of potential carbon neutral investors in the Pacific Rim. 

“When other countries who are partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) see JAPEX invest in this decarbonization opportunities and net zero projects in Alberta, it will send a very clear signal to others in the TPP about the potential,” Mar says.  

“This deal may come from the decades-long relationship between Alberta and Japan but can also serve as a signpost for decades to come.” 

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