Alberta steers funds toward oil sands emissions cuts

May 9 (UPI) — Alberta’s oil-rich economy can have it both ways through a multimillion dollar effort to cut emissions from oil sands production, ministers said.

More than $54 million (USD) is provided through the provincial Oil Sands Innovation Challenge to demonstrate commercial technology that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from production.

Shannon Phillips, the provincial minister for the environment, said the funds help the government balance economic growth with environmental stewardship.

“Our investments in innovation continue to position Alberta as a forward-looking energy producer and climate change leader,” she said in a statement.

The funding is part of a broader $1 billion, seven-year investment aimed at diversifying a provincial economy that depends heavily on oil revenue. Other provincial governments are taking the initiative on clean energy, with Saskatchewan leading efforts with its commitment to source 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.

Alberta itself aims to limit its own emissions and nine different companies, from Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to the Canadian subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, had projects selected for funding.

“This is about growing production while reducing emissions and costs,” Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said.

The provincial oil sands sector accounts for about 25 percent of total emissions. Total oil production was close to 107 million barrels in March, up 12 percent from last year.

Alberta is the top oil producer in Canada, but has taken steps to add layers of diversity to an economy that was left exposed to the decline in crude oil prices two years ago.