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Canadian Energy Centre

Operations start at new emissions-reducing oil sands project

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Photo courtesy Imperial Oil Cold Lake/Facebook

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Steam injection begins at Cold Lake Grand Rapids solvent-assisted SAGD facility

The first oil sands project using a technology designed to reduce emissions per barrel by nearly half is officially up and running.  

Imperial Oil CEO Brad Corson confirmed the company started operations at its Grand Rapids project on December 1, one year ahead of schedule. 

“Grand Rapids production is expected to achieve an emissions intensity that is up to 40 per cent lower compared to existing cyclic steam technology in use today,” Corson told analysts on a call to discuss the company’s 2023 results. 

The project is at Imperial’s Cold Lake oil sands operation, which has produced oil since the 1980s.  

The new technology is an advancement in steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), which is responsible for nearly half of today’s oil sands production.   

“This is a big deal. This is really good to see, and I hope to see continued momentum,” said Bryan Helfenbaum, associate vice-president of clean energy with Alberta Innovates. 

In so-called solvent assisted SAGD, light hydrocarbons or “solvents” like diluent, propane or butane are injected deep underground along with steam to melt and mobilize thick bitumen deposits.  

It’s a bit like adding a thinner to a heavy paint.   

After an initial start-up phase expected to last through the first quarter of 2024, production is targeted to ramp up to 15,000 barrels per day. 

Corson says the company “has a whole pipeline” of solvent deployment potential at Cold Lake.   

“We’re continuing to explore future generations of opportunities that will allow us to not only grow production but do that in a lower cost way and also, quite importantly, with lower emissions intensity,” he says. 

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Canadian Energy Centre

Nine major insights from Shell’s latest global LNG outlook

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A worker at Shell’s Hazira LNG import terminal, about 250 kilometers from Mumbai, India. Photo courtesy Shell

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Led by growing demand in China and the need for energy security, LNG is playing an increasingly important role in global gas supply

Global energy giant Shell has released its latest outlook for world liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply and demand through 2040. Here are nine key insights about what to expect in the future.

1. LNG is playing an increasingly important role in global gas supply. Total world LNG demand is set to continue growing beyond 2040.

2. Global LNG trade reached 404 million tonnes in 2023, an increase of 7 million tonnes compared to 2022. Over the last five years, LNG demand grew by 45 million tonnes, or 13 per cent.

3. In 2040, the world is expected to consume up to 685 million tonnes of LNG, an increase of nearly 70 per cent compared to 2023.

4. The United States became the world’s largest LNG exporter in 2023, shipping 86 million tonnes, followed by Australia, Qatar, Russia and Malaysia.

5. By 2030, North America will supply about 30 per cent of global LNG demand, led by natural gas from major basins including the Appalachia (Marcellus) play in the eastern United States and the Montney play in Alberta and British Columbia. But the global gas market is increasingly exposed to U.S. risks like the Biden administration’s pause on new LNG approvals.

6. China is likely to dominate LNG demand growth as the country’s industries seek to cut carbon emissions by switching from coal to gas. With China’s coal-based steel sector accounting for more emissions than the total emissions of the UK, Germany and Turkey combined, gas has an essential role to play in tackling one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions and local air pollution. China’s gas demand is expected to rise by more than 50 per cent by 2040.

7. Natural gas, delivered as LNG, provides flexibility to balance intermittent solar and wind power generation. In countries with high levels of renewables in their power generation mix, gas provides short-term flexibility and long-term security of supply. Gas provides grid stability, enabling a higher share of renewables in power grids.

8. LNG continues to play a vital role in European energy security, with European nations importing more than 120 million tonnes in 2023, assisted by new regasification facilities. Europe will continue to rely on LNG to support its energy mix through 2030, even as total European natural gas demand is expected to decline by about 25 per cent.

9. South Asia and Southeast Asia are emerging as major LNG import regions, with Vietnam, and the Philippines starting to import LNG to backfill domestic gas declines. From less than 10 million tonnes in 2020, LNG imports to Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines are expected to rise to about 40 million tonnes in 2030 and more than 60 million tonnes in 2040. 

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Alberta

Low emissions, Indigenous-owned Cascade Power Project to boost Alberta electrical grid reliability

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The Cascade Power Project. Photo courtesy Kinetcor

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

New 900-megawatt natural gas-fired facility to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s power needs

Alberta’s electrical grid is about to get a boost in reliability from a major new natural gas-fired power plant owned in part by Indigenous communities.  

Next month operations are scheduled to start at the Cascade Power Project, which will have enough capacity to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s energy needs.  

It’s good news in a province where just over one month ago an emergency alert suddenly blared on cell phones and other electronic devices warning residents to immediately reduce electricity use to avoid outages.  

“Living in an energy-rich province, we sometimes take electricity for granted,” says Chana Martineau, CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) and member of the Frog Lake First Nation.  

“Given much of the province was dealing with -40C weather at the time, that alert was a vivid reminder of the importance of having a reliable electrical grid.” 

Cascade Power was the first project to receive funding through the AIOC, the provincial corporation established in 2020 to provide loan guarantees for Indigenous groups seeking partnerships in major development projects. 

So far, the AIOC has underwritten more than $500 million in support. This year it has $3 billion  available, up from $2 billion in 2023.  

In August 2020 it provided a $93 million loan guarantee to the Indigenous Communities Consortium — comprised of the Alexis Nakota Sioux NationEnoch Cree NationKehewin Cree NationOChiese First NationPaul First Nation, and Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation — to become equity owners. 

The 900-megawatt, $1.5-billion facility is scheduled to come online in March. 

“It’s personally gratifying for me to see how we moved from having Indigenous communities being seen as obstacles to partners in a generation,” says Martineau. 

The added capacity brought by Cascade is welcomed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), which is responsible for the provinces electrical grid. =

“The AESO welcomes all new forms of generation into the Alberta marketplace, including renewables, thermal, storage, and others,” said Diane Kossman, a spokeswoman for the agency.  

“It is imperative that Alberta continue to have sufficient dispatchable generation to serve load during peak demand periods when other forms of generation are not able to contribute in a meaningful way.” 

The Cascade project also provides environmental benefits. It is a so-called “combined cycle” power facility, meaning it uses both a gas turbine and a steam turbine simultaneously to produce up to 50 per cent more electricity from the same amount of fuel than a traditional facility.  

Once complete, Cascade is expected to be the largest and most efficient combined cycle power plant in Alberta, producing 62 per cent less CO2 than a coal-fired power plant and 30 per cent less CO2 than a typical coal-to-gas conversion.  

“This project really is aligned with the goals of Indigenous communities on environmental performance,” says Martineau. 

The partnership behind the power plant includes Axium InfrastructureDIF Capital Partners  and Kineticor Resource Corp. along with the Indigenous Communities Consortium. 

The nations invested through a partnership with OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.  

“Innovation is not just what we invest in, but it is also how we invest,” said James Davis, OPTrust’s chief investment officer. 

“The participation of six First Nations in the Cascade Power Project is a prime example of what is possible when investors, the government and local communities work together.” 

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