Alberta’s Energy Reserves 2010 and Supply/Demand Outlook 2011-2020:
(Published by the ERCB: The Energy Resources Conservation Board of the Government of Alberta)
Current and Proposed Canadian Commercial Oil Sands Projects:
(Strategy West Inc., 2009)
Overview of Oil Sands Development in Alberta
Numerous stakeholders are involved in shaping oil sands policy
“The Alberta government, as owner of the province’s resources, has played the dominant role. Different divisions of the Albertan government are responsible for the various aspects of oil sands policy. The Energy Resources Conservation Board is responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry in Alberta, while Alberta Energy is responsible for granting rights to industry for exploration and development, collecting royalties, and administering the energy sector’s fiscal regime. Alberta Environment, through relevant legislation and guidelines, regulates the impact of oil sands development on air, land, and water in the province. Recently, the Oil Sands Secretariat was created within the Treasury Board to strengthen policy coordination.
To inform policy development the Government of Alberta has also turned to processes involving a multitude of stakeholders. To guide the direction of future growth in the oil sands, the Alberta government created the Oil Sands Multi-Stakeholder Committee to consult with all relevant stakeholders in the province, including the general public. The committee released its report in June 2007. As of the end of May 2008, the government has yet to respond. The Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) was created in 2000, with the charge to propose a framework for environmental management for the Athabasca oil sands region. For various reasons, its progress has been slow. In January 2008, CEMA did call for a halt to the issuance of new tenures in one area while it continued deliberating , but the provincial government rejected the request, saying it would consider the issue when CEMA delivered its complete report. CEMA released its Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework on June 5, 2008.
The federal government’s role in managing the oil sands has been minimal. While the Government of Canada has jurisdiction over waterways, fisheries, Indian lands, and environmental assessments, it has been hesitant to exercise this jurisdiction in a way that would threaten Alberta’s perceived right to develop its resources as it sees fit.
The oil and gas companies involved in oil sands production have been extremely powerful stakeholders in the province. As of the end of December 2006 there were 21 companies operating 74 projects in the Alberta oil sands. Some of the companies producing the largest amounts of oil included Imperial Oil, Suncor, Shell Canada Limited and Canadian Natural Resources. Of the 21 producing companies, the largest seven accounted for about 84 percent of production in 2006.
Today, environmental groups are increasingly asserting their concerns regarding oil sands development, and have gone so far as to challenge government policies in court. As the Alberta government remains relatively hostile to these groups’ demands, environmentalists find themselves largely removed from the formal political sphere in this arena.
Finally, the 23 Aboriginal groups that live in northern Alberta are increasingly asserting their right to shape the development of their ancestral lands. Many of their concerns are articulated in the recent First Nations’ consultative process.
All of these stakeholders are attempting to shift the pace, scale and direction of oil sands development in a particular direction that suits their respective needs or interests. To this end, some of the challenges with oil sands exploration – outlined further in this feature – are cited by many of these groups as they attempt to articulate their vision for the oil sands.
The absolute scale of current development in the oil sands, and the consequent environmental, social and economic implications of this development, are massive. Since the mid-1990s, production of oil from the region has increased exponentially. In 2006, oil sands production was at approximately 1.2 million barrels a day – a figure representing about 42 percent of Canada’s total crude output. Accordingly, the potential for future growth is enormous, as to date less than five percent of the established reserves have been produced. Alberta Energy estimates that production could reach five million barrels a day by 2030. As production continues to propel the Alberta economy forward, the policy problems that remain unresolved today will only increase.”
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