Skip to main content

Major Canadian oilsands producers partner in move toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

A dump truck works by an oilsands extraction facility near the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta on Sunday June 1, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson) A dump truck works by an oilsands extraction facility near the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta on Sunday June 1, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

The largest of Canada's oilsands producers have agreed to a new initiative with a target of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The 'Pathways to New Zero' effort involves Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, Imperial, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy in collaboration with the federal government and government of Alberta. The companies combine to operate nearly 90 per cent of production in Canada's oilsands.

"Canada has an opportunity to lead on climate change by delivering meaningful emissions reductions as well as balancing sustainable economic development," said Tim McKay, Canadian Natural president, in a statement released Wednesday.

"Canadian ingenuity has enabled oilsands development and with continued innovation, positions Canada to be the ESG-leading barrel to meet global energy demand.

"We are committed to working together with industry partners and governments to help meet Canada’s climate objectives while providing sustainable long-term economic and social benefits for Canadians from the oil sands."

"The Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative is an industry driven, made-in-Alberta solution which will strengthen our position as global ESG leaders," said Sonya Savage, Alberta’s minister of energy. "Every credible energy forecast indicates that oil will be a major contributor to the energy mix in the decades ahead and even beyond 2050. Alberta is uniquely positioned and ready to meet that demand. This initiative will also pave the way for continued technological advancements, ultimately leading to the production of net zero barrels of oil."

In the partnership announcement, the alliance members admitted the oilsands industry is "a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions" before saying the new initiative will "develop an actionable approach to address these emissions" while "preserving the more than $3 trillion in estimated oilsands contributions to Canada's GDP over the next 30 years."

The steps for reaching net zero emissions is said to include:

  • Creating carbon dioxide trunklines from the Fort McMurray and Cold Lake areas to a carbon sequestration hub near Cold Lake;
  • Utilizing existing and emerging greenhouse gas reduction technologies at oilsands operations, and;
  • Piloting and accelerating the application of emissions-reducing technology including direct air capture, recovery technology and small modular nuclear reactions.

"Members of the Pathways initiative believe the most effective way to address climate change is by developing and advancing new technologies and that this unprecedented challenge can and will be solved by Canadian ingenuity, leadership and collaboration," read the statement. 

According to the partnership, forecasts indicate "fossil fuels will continue to be an essential requirement through 2050" despite the fact "alternative energy sources will play an increasingly important role in the decades ahead." 


The International Energy Agency published a comprehensive report last month announcing that the only way to truly reach ‘net-zero’ emissions is to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure and rapidly transition to renewable energy.

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, admits that major oil companies recognize they have a problem but still aren’t moving towards a real solution.

“These companies are trying to get ahead of this, but they’re trying to define what net zero means, which for them means reducing emission from their own operations,” Stewart said.

“The problem is the rest of the world understands net zero as not having emissions at all and that means these companies need to account for the emissions from selling their product.”

Stewart adds that carbon capture technologies can certainly be used to reaching net-zero operations, but says new technologies like electric vehicles are the real solution to eliminating fossil fuels altogether.

“There’s a real opportunity here where you can actually create those new jobs and the federal government and rest of Canada absolutely has to help workers, communities currently dependant on oil in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland through this transition."

With files from CTV Calgary's Mark Villani Top Stories

Stay Connected