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Five ways Canada’s oil and gas industry showed improved environmental performance in 2023


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Natural gas processing facility in Alberta. Photo courtesy Alberta Energy Regulator

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Data shows work industry is doing to reduce its environmental footprint

New data released in 2023 shows the progress Canada’s oil and gas industry is making to reduce its environmental footprint.  

From emissions to water use and reclamation, here are some key performance statistics.  

1. Methane emissions reduction target achieved three years ahead of schedule 

Photo courtesy Tourmaline

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) released data in November showing that oil and gas producers in the province achieved the target of reducing methane emissions by 45 per cent compared to 2014.  

The milestone was achieved in 2022, three years ahead of the 2025 government deadline.  

Reducing methane emissions comes primarily from reducing small leaks from valves, pump seals, and other equipment, as well as reducing flaring and venting.   

2. Oil sands emissions stay flat despite production growth  

Oil sands steam generators. Photo courtesy Cenovus Energy

An updated study by S&P Global in August found oil sands emissions did not increase in 2022 even though production grew. 

It’s a significant first that indicates oil sands emissions may start decreasing sooner than previously expected, said Kevin Birn, S&P Global’s vice-president of Canadian oil markets.  

Total oil sands emissions were 81 megatonnes in 2022, nearly flat with 2021 despite a production increase of about 50,000 barrels per day.  

In 2022, S&P Global predicted peak oil sands emissions around 2025. The new findings indicate it could happen faster.  

3. Producers spend millions more than required on oil and gas cleanup 

Photo courtesy Alberta Energy Regulator

Oil and gas producers in Alberta spent significantly more than required in 2022 cleaning up inactive wells, facilities and pipelines, the AER reported in October 

The regulator’s industry-wide minimum “closure” spend for 2022 was set at $422 million. But the final tally showed producers spent $685 million, or about 60 per cent more than the regulator required.  

Industry abandoned 10,334 inactive wells, pipelines and facilities in 2022 – nearly double the amount abandoned in 2019 and 2020, the AER reported.   

Reclamation activity also accelerated, with the AER issuing 461 reclamation certificates, an increase of one third compared to 2021.  

The regulator reports that 17 per cent of licensed wells in Alberta are now considered inactive, down from 21 per cent in 2019. And about 30 per cent of licensed wells are now considered reclaimed, up from 27 per cent in 2019.   

4. Oil sands reclaimed land growing  

Wetland in reclaimed area in the Athabasca oil sands region. Photo by Greg Halinda for the Canadian Energy Centre

Data released by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance highlights the growing spread of the industry’s reclaimed land. 

As of 2021, oil sands operators had permanently reclaimed 10,344 hectares, the equivalent area of more than 20,000 NFL football fields – a 16 per cent increase from 2019. 

Of this, 1,296 hectares (about 2,500 NFL football fields) is permanently reclaimed to wetlands and aquatics.  

5. Fresh water use per barrel declining 

Photo courtesy Cenovus Energy

New data on water use in Alberta’s oil and gas industry released in December shows producers continue to reduce the use of fresh water from lakes, rivers and shallow groundwater

The oil and gas industry used less than one per cent of Alberta’s available fresh water in 2022, the AER reported.  

Thanks primarily to increased water recycling, fresh water use per barrel in Alberta oil and gas has decreased by 22 per cent since 2013.  

Overall, 82 per cent of water used in Alberta oil and gas in 2022 was recycled; 80 per cent in oil sands mining, and 90 per cent in drilled or “in situ” oil sands production.  

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Just in time for Canada Day weekend! Crescent Falls ready to be enjoyed again

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The new staircase structure and viewing platform are among many upgrades that visitors can look forward to at the reopening Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area. (Credit: Alberta Parks).

The popular Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area reopens following a significant capital investment to improve visitor safety and experiences.

Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area is ready to welcome visitors back to enjoy one of the most remarkable, accessible waterfall viewing opportunities in Alberta. The upgrades at Crescent Falls will help improve the park’s visitor experience. Guests can expect expanded parking, improved access roads, trails and day use areas, new and improved viewing areas to take in the falls and upgraded safety measures, including signage and wayfinding.

The Provincial Recreation Area (PRA) is reopening over the July long weekend after being closed since 2023. Visitors will notice increased public safety upgrades through additions such as new parking lots, a new stair structure to access the lower falls, new pedestrian trails, a new vehicle bridge to access the camping area and a viewing platform to enjoy the Crescent Falls.

“We are thrilled to welcome visitors back to Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area in time for the Canada Day long weekend. These additions will help visitors to safely access and enjoy the area’s natural beauty. Parks are for people and Alberta’s government will continue to invest in high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities.”

Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks

“Today marks a significant milestone for our community as we reopen the Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area following extensive upgrades. Our province is well known for its incredible natural beauty, and these improvements will make our backcountry more accessible and ensure that Albertans and those visiting our great province can continue to explore our stunning landscapes for years to come.”

Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
This project is part of an investment of more than $12 million to upgrade 13 sites along the David Thompson Corridor. The improvements at Crescent Falls will provide improved safety measures and better visitor access to and from popular tourist destinations in the area. Partners from Clearwater County, Rocky Mountain House and other organizations were critical in helping to move the upgrades forward. Clearwater County and its officials worked with Alberta Parks staff to advise on the upgrades needed around the area.

Alberta’s government is committed to reconciliation and acknowledges the significance of the land around Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. The completed upgrades reflect an ongoing commitment to creating more outdoor recreation opportunities while protecting the land’s natural and cultural values so it can be enjoyed by current and future generations.

“The Alberta Government’s reopening of Crescent Falls is a remarkable achievement for our region. This project not only enhances recreational opportunities, natural beauty and accessibility in our area but also means safer, more enjoyable visits for our citizens and visitors alike.”

Michelle Swanson, councillor, Clearwater County

“The Town of Rocky Mountain House is where adventure begins, and we are thrilled that Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area has reopened to the public in time for the summer adventure season. This is a wonderful day trip destination for visitors and residents alike setting out from Rocky Mountain House. The provincial investment has only improved its accessibility and safety, making it a must-see destination if you are in the area.”

Dale Shippelt, incoming deputy mayor, Rocky Mountain House

“Westward Bound Campgrounds is the proud facility operator of the Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area and we are very excited to see our campers and visitors return to its beauty. These upgrades will have a significant impact on enhancing guest satisfaction levels, providing unique and memorable camper and visitor experiences while providing a safe environment to enjoy spectacular scenery.”

Lonnie and Edena Earl, Westward Bound Campgrounds

This work is part of an ongoing commitment to creating more outdoor recreation and camping opportunities, building trails and facilities and ensuring Alberta’s provincial parks can be enjoyed by all Albertans.

Quick facts

  • The upgrades at Crescent Falls PRA include the following improvements:
    • Enlarging the existing parking area
    • Developing a new parking area for large RV vehicles
    • Upgrading the access roads down to the lower area
    • Installing a new pedestrian trail to the lower day use area
    • Installing a new vehicle crossing from the day use to the camping site
    • Upgrading and expanding the day use areas
    • Increasing signage
    • Installing additional toilets and bear-proof garbage bins
    • Developing a new stair structure to access the lower falls areas with a viewing platform
  • Enhancing safety features throughout the PRA. The upgrades were part of a significant capital investment of $12.3 million by Alberta’s government to address safety and experience opportunities in 13 key provincial recreation sites along the David Thompson Corridor. Along with Crescent Falls PRA, other sites that were upgraded include:
    • Bighorn Dam Recreation Area
    • The following 11 Public lands and parks sites:
    • Coliseum
    • Allstone
    • Abraham Slabs
    • Hoo Doo Creek
    • Coral Creek
    • Pinto Creek
    • Preachers Point
    • Cavalcade
    • Kinglet/Tuff Puff
    • Wildhorse
    • Owen Creek
  • Crescent Falls PRA is located 22 km west of Nordegg on Highway 11 and 6 km north on a gravel access road. Crescent Falls PRA has a first-come, first-served campground with 12 tent-only sites and 22 RV sites. The day use area includes multiple viewing platforms of the upper and lower falls and picnic tables with views of the river. Access to the lower day use area is available on a 0.8 km trail from the main parking area or, alternatively, from the Bighorn Canyon lookout via a 3 km trail. The lower day use area also has accessible-only parking stalls adjacent to the viewing platforms with an accessible vault toilet and picnic areas.

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Taxpayers: Alberta drivers need a gas tax break for summer

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Kris Sims

“Alberta families packing up the minivan to go visit the grandparents in Manitoba will be shocked to see a much lower gas price over there, thanks to that NDP government’s lower fuel taxes”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the Alberta government to give drivers a break on fuel taxes as the summer road trip season kicks off.

“Alberta families packing up the minivan to go visit the grandparents in Manitoba will be shocked to see a much lower gas price over there, thanks to that NDP government’s lower fuel taxes,” said Kris Sims, CTF Alberta Director. “Premier Danielle Smith did the right thing when she suspended the Alberta fuel tax for a year. It saved families so much money and it would be a good thing for her to do that again for the summer.”

In January 2023, the Alberta government fully suspended the provincial fuel tax for a year, saving drivers 13 cents per litre of gasoline and diesel.

On average, that tax suspension saved Alberta drivers about $10 filling up a minivan and about $15 filling up a pickup truck.

On April 1, 2024, the Alberta government hiked the tax back up to 13 cents per litre, on the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau increased the federal carbon tax to 17 cents per litre of gasoline and 21 cents per litre of diesel.

Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew fully suspended his province’s 15 cent per litre fuel tax on Jan. 1, 2024. He has now extended it to at least September.

Ontario PC Premier Doug Ford has kept his provincial fuel tax partially suspended, saving five cents per litre for more than two years.

Alberta’s fiscal update is expected to be released by the Alberta government soon, a time that often includes updates on affordability actions by the government, including tax relief.

“Albertans are still waiting for their provincial income tax cut and they are paying the full price at the pump for the provincial fuel tax, so it’s tough for them to feel the Albera Advantage right about now,” said Sims. “The Alberta government needs to make good on its promise of lower taxes and drivers should be given lower fuel taxes at the pumps this summer.”

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