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WITTEVRONGEL: Regulatory quicksand holds back clean tech in Alberta

“Sitting on these abandoned and orphaned wells instead of repurposing them is a forgone opportunity, and a shameful waste.”




Guest column from Krystle Wittevrongel, Public Policy Analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute

With Alberta’s economy still sputtering and not expected to rebound until 2023, the knowledge that we are sitting on an enormous economic opportunity is music to the ears of most Albertans. The fact that this opportunity not only addresses current financial and environmental issues but also helps diversify the energy sector is a veritable symphony.

According to a recent report by Energy Futures Lab and the Canada West Foundation, repurposing some of the inactive and orphaned wells in the province could yield substantial benefits in this regard. 

Currently there are about 95,000 inactive and orphaned wells across Alberta, and recent attention has been focused on cleaning them up. In fact, just last year the federal government committed $1 billion to the province in a bid to create jobs and support environmental targets in this area.

We now know, however, that there is more that can be done with this dormant infrastructure. Many of these sites could be repurposed by energy entrepreneurs for alternative energy uses, including geothermal, micro-solar, hydrogen, recovery of lithium or other minerals, or carbon capture and storage. Alberta is well positioned to benefit from such development. 

For example, developing geothermal energy could help put geologists, reservoir engineers, drillers, and other oil patch workers back to work by sharing and expanding oil- and gas-related resources. Repurposing these inactive sites and returning them to productive use also furthers the goals of environmentalists, Indigenous groups, and taxpayers, while eliminating a portion of the difficult (and expensive) problem of aging oil and gas infrastructure. It really is a win-win. 

However, for years, energy entrepreneurs have been unable to capitalize on this opportunity to create jobs and help diversify the energy sector. To blame are inflexible regulations that do not allow for site repurposing, as well as a lack of clarity and collaboration among regulators. 

As noted in the aforementioned report, it took over five years for the RenuWell Project to navigate the regulatory hurdles involved in repurposing legacy oil and gas infrastructure for community solar power. This project invests in new lower-carbon technologies for exploration, cleaner extraction, and reduced long-term environmental impacts.   

Another project, Alberta No. 1, attempted to repurpose existing infrastructure to generate geothermal energy. Instead, their economic and timeline advantages evaporated, and the murkiness of the regulatory waters has left the project in limbo. Ironically, if they had decided to break new ground rather than minimizing environmental disturbance and repurposing, they would be in a better position today.

As such stories illustrate, Albertans continue to miss out on economic and environmental improvement opportunities. All the while, the sites sit effectively abandoned and untouched.

The Alberta Energy Regulator has already committed to reducing red tape in regulatory processes, so they are well positioned to seriously consider the recommendations put forward in the report. But while Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage has acknowledged that the government is working on a number of these priorities, firm leadership will be required. 

Sitting on these abandoned and orphaned wells instead of repurposing them is a forgone opportunity, and a shameful waste. To develop alternative energy sources and help foster economic recovery in Alberta, the barriers that have prevented energy entrepreneurs from taking advantage of relevant expertise and assets from the oil and gas industry need to be removed.

And for a provincial government committed to cutting red tape, here is a prime example of where we can reduce costs, speed up approvals, and make life easier for hard-working Albertans and their businesses.

Guest column from Krystle Wittevrongel, Public Policy Analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute

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  1. Steven Ruthven

    May 9, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Wow !! What a game changer of a story!!

    The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is the door stop of energy regulation, in Alberta.

    AER has been growing for a long time, in Alberta, under successive political Energy Ministers & Premiers. I’ve heard people in the oil industry (Accountants) compare AER regulations to the Revenue Canada Tax Code.

    I very much doubt the Energy Minister Savage or Premier Kenney will work diligently on this file due to the other pressing issues taking up much of the Premier’s time.

    My two cents.

  2. Left Coast

    May 8, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Carbon Capture has to be the dumbest idea ever . . . pumping Plant Food into the ground is insane.
    CO2 is NOT Carbon . . . Coal is Carbon !
    CO2 is a benign Gas that enables plants to grow, more CO2 = more production & Yield.

    Lots of Geothermal going on at the coast for decades . . . but have never seen a multi-million dollar oil rig used for that purpose.

    In the last year we have watch the Massive Green Energy FAILS in California & Texas . . . why would anyone want to emulate this insanity? Wind & Solar are Part-Time solutions to a full-time problem . . . if they can’t keep the Air conditions on in LA in the middle of summer . . . how will they keep Albertans from freezing in the winter?
    Imagine if LA had a few million electric cars . . . lol

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No plan for Greenfire to repay First Nations business stiffed for $6 million

“I just don’t understand how a local Indigenous business can be taken to the cleaners as much as we have,” said Jill Sporidis, a business consultant for Athabasca.




A First Nations workforce business is out more than $6 million after the bankruptcy of Greenfire Oil & Gas, but the company appears to be back in business, now bidding on new oilsands projects.

Athabasca Work Force Solutions – an Indigenous-owned labour company based in Fort McMurray – says with Greenfire back on its feet, the company should pay the bills it wracked up.

“I just don’t understand how a local Indigenous business can be taken to the cleaners as much as we have,” said Jill Sporidis, a business consultant for Athabasca.

“Where is the justice, where is the support from the Alberta government? This is a case of a small Indigenous company being taken advantage of by a big oil company.

“This has severely impacted on how Workforce Solutions could have grown.”

She estimated the company is out a total of $6 million.

Company owner Todd Pruden said he feels “defeated, by the courts and the government.”

“There has to me something in place for accountability. Right now there is no accountability,” he said,

The case began when a company called Greenfire Oil and Gas took over the Hangingstone plant from Japan Oil and Gas for $1 in April 2018. Greenfire also took on $800,000 of the company’s debt.

Hangingstone had been shuttered since the large forest fires of 2016.

But in May of 2020, Greenfire declared bankruptcy, leaving creditors, like Athabasca, on the hook. They owed creditors a total of $30 million.

Pruden claimed Greenfire owed it more than $3.7 million for unpaid services. Athabasca also held $2.5 million in company stock, which is now worthless.

Another debt holder group of 15 private individuals were owed $2.8 million in unsecured debentures, said documents obtained by the Western Standard. And another party, Summit Partners, were owed $4.08 million in secured debt.

To pay off debt, Greenfire wanted to sell the Hangingstone project, but the creditors fought the corporation in court. The Court of Queen’s Bench rejected the creditors’ claim and let Greenfire sell Hangingstone to a company called Trafigura for $20 million. The creditors appealed the original decision and on February 18, the Court of Appeal also rejected their claim.

Pruden said he and other creditors had come up with the cash to buy Hangingstone themselves, but that was turned down by the courts.

“We had a plan in place to get the company up and running so we wouldn’t lose the millions we had put in,” said Sporidis.

On April 6, it was announced the Hangingstone project was bought by a company called Greenfire Acquisition Corporation. All of the former company’s executives were retained in the new one.

They said the project will employ 50 people and pump 6,000 barrels of oil a day.

But there has been no mention of paying Athabasca the money it’s owed.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

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GARYK: How environmental groups use kids as props

“There’s plenty of time to indoctrinate our offspring later. Is it too much to ask that the eco-extremists keep their politics out of the classroom?”




Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and others were quick to attack the Canadian Energy Centre – better known as the ‘War Room’ – for expressing their disdain over an inaccurate representation of the oil and gas industry in the Netflix movie Bigfoot Family, which depicted a mountain top being blown up to extract oil. 

It was overkill that brought some justified criticism upon the War Room, but there isn’t any fuss when these same groups use children to promote their extremist agenda. 

This agenda is pushed on young kids across North America. The made-in-Canada 3% Project, founded by self-described climate change activist Steven Lee in 2012 when he was 19 years old, tours across the country holding free assemblies in schools.      

Their website is transparent about their objectives.

“Our goals are simple: to achieve more consensus Canada-wide that climate change is real, that its biggest cause is human-created, and to empower youth to take local action towards climate change solutions in their communities.”

The 3% Project’s founder knows how to influence young people. He’s a policy advocate to the UN, a public speaker at international forums — including UNICEF, G8 Summits, NATO and UNESCO — and his website says he was trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader. It’s this extensive experience that has allowed him to realize “starting these projects young is a great way to keep climate change and empowerment at the forefront of a learning, growing mind. The leaders of tomorrow are already in our schools.” 

In Alberta, it may be up to individual teachers and boards to decide who gets an audience with their students; however, it doesn’t enhance learning to invite non-expert activists with an anti-oil and gas agenda that use extremist, fearmongering, and indoctrination tactics into schools. 

Climate science is a complex topic that’s worthy of serious study; however, without presenting a clear argument on both sides — and one that includes the positives that result from having access to abundant affordable energy — young people are not being offered enough information to make their own informed opinions. Rather, they’re being told what to think.    

There’s a push to create youth activists in schools. Under the guidance of a Coquitlam school counsellor, a group of BC youth researched plastics pollution and “plotted strategy” that resulted in a meeting with BC’s Environment Minister. Their request? Give municipal governments the power to ban single-use plastics. 

The group is a hodgepodge of students ranging in age from 11 to 17. One has to wonder how they happened to come together and whether they freely chose the cause they did? 

There’s also the metastasizing of climate lawsuits by young people around the globe. There was a recent lawsuit lead by Ecojustice, where seven Ontario youth took the Ford government to court alleging “the Government of Ontario’s weakening of its climate targets will lead to widespread illness and death and violates Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.” 

Where did youth aged 13 to 25 get enough money to fund a climate-related lawsuit, and how did the seed for the idea germinate? 

Similarly, the David Suzuki Foundation was “supporting 15 youth from seven provinces and a territory taking the Canadian government to court for violating their [Charter rights by perpetuating climate change.”)

The Suzuki Foundation claims these youth, ages 11 to 20, are part of a global movement of young people holding their governments accountable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The goal is to reduce global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 410 to 350 parts per million or lower by the end of the century, by reducing Canada’s emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.”

Children are being taught the fear of climate change at a young age. Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg recently published a children’s book.

“Greta saw living creatures everywhere, struggling to stay alive”…“She saw cities swallowed under rising oceans”…“She saw the smoldering sun scorch the earth, leaving it bone dry”. 

The eco-extreamists are trying to scare our children into believing the world will end if we do not stop driving gas-powered cars. 

No one asks what the proposed solutions are or how what these children are doing as individuals to reach their objectives. Adults are not allowed to question the motivation of the kids or their handlers. Youth are expected to unquestioningly trust these activist’s knowledge of the complex subject matter, yet skeptical adults are expected to keep their distance because they’re “just kids.” 

There’s plenty of time to indoctrinate our offspring later. Is it too much to ask the eco-extremists keep their politics out of the classroom?

Deidra Garyk is a Columnist for the Western Standard

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Suncor, ATCO plan massive hydrogen facility in Alberta

It’s expected to reduce Alberta’s CO₂ emissions by more than two million tonnes per year.




Two Calgary-based companies are joining forces and plan to build a hydrogen project— that would take a good chunk out of province’s carbon dioxide emissions —near Fort Saskatchewan.

The companies said if completed, the project will produce 300,000 tonnes per year of clean hydrogen “using advanced technology to capture more than 90% of the emissions generated in the hydrogen production process.”

It’s expected to reduce Alberta’s CO₂ emissions by more than two million tonnes per year.

The companies said 85% of the clean hydrogen would be used to supply existing energy demand.

“Specifically, 65% of the output would be used in refining processes and cogeneration of steam and electricity at the Suncor Edmonton Refinery, reducing refinery emissions by 60%. In addition, approximately 20% of the output could be used in the Alberta natural gas distribution system, also further reducing emissions,” said a Monday release by the companies.

Suncor plans to build and operate the hydrogen production and carbon dioxide sequestration facilities and ATCO would construct and operate pipeline and hydrogen storage facilities.

“With abundant natural gas resources and geology that is well suited to the utilization and permanent storage of CO₂, Alberta is one of the best places in the world to produce clean hydrogen,” said Mark Little, president and chief executive officer of Suncor.

Nancy Southern, chair and chief executive officer of ATCO, said: “This project would be a global scale solution to reducing emissions with made-in-Canada energy ingenuity, while positioning Alberta at the forefront of the clean hydrogen economy.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was thrilled to hear about the project.

“This partnership is good news for Alberta’s economic recovery. As our COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to gain momentum, Alberta’s government will look towards how we can get our economy going and get Albertans back to work,” said Kenney.

“With a highly skilled energy workforce and an abundance of natural gas resources, Alberta is ready to be a world leader in hydrogen production. Massive hydrogen projects like this will help us reach our emission goals while also creating thousands of good jobs for Albertans.”

It is hoped the project could be up and running in 2028. A dollar estimate to build the facility, nor the number of jobs it would create were provided.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

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