To remain sustainable economically, the Canadian oil and gas industry needs to be efficient and competitive on a global scale. It will take investment and innovation to meet ever-rising environmental expectations, regulatory requirements and the needs of present and future generations of consumers.
In 2007, crude oil and natural gas provided 67 per cent of the energy used by Canadians. Petrochemicals derived from crude oil and natural gas are made into thousands of products. The oil and gas industry is a major employer and a vital component of the economy.
In 2007, the Canadian petroleum industry supplied about $50 billion worth of crude oil and equivalents, natural gas and refined oil products to meet our petroleum-based energy and petrochemical needs. Without the industry, we would have had to spend at least as much on imported supplies. In addition, Canada received about $50 billion in revenues from petroleum and natural gas exports in 2007.
The oil and gas industry has become much more efficient and able to respond to fluctuations in crude oil and natural gas prices. New technologies have created new opportunities, and Canadian expertise often finds profitable applications abroad.
As U.S. petroleum supplies decline and become more costly to find and produce, Canada finds ready markets for increased production of natural gas, bitumen, heavy oil, conventional oil and natural gas liquids from both Western Canada and new East Coast offshore projects. Expanded pipeline systems give producers access to markets across the continent. Arctic pipelines could open up new development opportunities for Canadian oil and gas companies and for northern residents.
Natural gas continues to play an increasingly important role in the North American energy economy. In addition to natural gas reserves already discovered in Western Canada, and under development off the East Coast, large supplies have been discovered in the Arctic. Development of northern natural gas resources requires successful conclusion of regulatory processes, community consultation and environmental assessment, but becomes more attractive when natural gas prices are high enough to support the construction of pipelines to southern markets.
People who work in the oil and gas industry – like the government officials who establish and enforce regulations – are also citizens, parents and consumers. Sustainable development is both a long-term goal and an ongoing process. It requires continuing discussion and analysis. As science, technology, economics and social values evolve, so will the role of the Canadian petroleum industry.
Through the goods and services they buy, consumers will influence many of the key decisions about the future of crude oil and natural gas. Where Canadians live and work, the standard of living they require, what recreation they choose – these will be major factors determining the demand for energy and petrochemicals. In addition, governments respond to public demands as they set policies that play a critical role in establishing the regulatory framework in which the oil and gas industry operates.