OTTAWA – Canadian oil and gas producers may increase production by the equivalent of 300,000 barrels per day by the end of the year to help displace Russian fossil fuels, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Thursday.
Wilkinson, speaking at the end of an International Energy Agency meeting in Paris, said two-thirds of that is oil and the rest natural gas.
“Canada’s European friends and allies are experiencing an energy security crisis, a crisis that could affect industry, mobility and even home heating,” Wilkinson said. “This crisis must be addressed.”
As part of economic sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Western allies are also seeking to eliminate any dependence on Russia for oil and gas.
Canada and the United States could do so without much difficulty because they already import so little. However, Europe depends on Russia for about a quarter of its oil supply and 40 percent of its gas.
The IEA said the European Union imported about 380 million cubic meters of natural gas and 2.3 million barrels of oil from Russia every day in 2021.
What Canada can offer would replace less than five percent of Europe’s gas imports from Russia and less than 10 percent of its Russian oil imports.
Wilkinson said the additional Canadian production would replace Russian fuels, so should not lead to an overall increase in greenhouse gas emissions. He said it is being done with particular attention to Canada’s climate change commitments, but Canada cannot turn a blind eye to Europe’s plight.
“We have our European allies facing the prospect of not being able to heat their homes or fill their trucks that actually service their supermarkets and restaurants,” he said.
“It would be incredibly irresponsible for Canada to say, ‘We don’t care, we’re going to plug our ears with our fingers and essentially pretend that this crisis doesn’t exist.’ That is not what we are trying to do. That’s not what allies do.”
Canada lacks the infrastructure to ship oil or gas to Europe directly. Instead, it will travel through existing pipelines to the United States, which has agreed to send it to the Gulf of Mexico for export to Europe, either before or after it is refined.
Wilkinson said Canada is “very open to discussion” about what else it can do to help, including the possibility of new terminals on the East Coast to export Canadian liquefied natural gas to Europe.
But he said those investments largely depend on understanding the amount of time it would take to get them up and running and being able to ensure any new gas infrastructure is “ultra-low emissions” so it doesn’t add to Canada’s carbon footprint down the road.
They would also have to be able to eventually transition to hydrogen, “which is where everyone wants to go,” he said.
Canada aspires to become a net exporter of hydrogen as an energy source, but its own domestic projects are in very early stages. Wilkinson said that both Canada and Europe are committed to accelerating the transition to renewable energy.
Europe is looking at other options to reduce its short-term gas needs, including speeding up wind and solar projects, increasing the use of bioenergy, delaying the closure of some nuclear power plants, and accelerating the use of heat pumps. .
Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, said new renewable energy sources “can be deployed much faster than new oil and gas infrastructure.”
He said Canada needs to create an emergency program to build heat pumps and wind turbines for Europe, the same way it did with planes and tanks during World War II.
He also wants Canada to implement the International Energy Agency’s 10-step plan to reduce oil demand in the country.
Those steps include reducing speed limits on highways by 10 kilometers per hour, having employees who can work from home at least three days a week, encouraging the use of public transportation by lowering the cost, and implementing policies to reduce the use of cars. in city centers, such as alternating which days people can take their cars downtown.
Wilkinson said the agency called on all energy ministers at the Paris meeting to implement the plan, noting that Canada’s ability to help Ukraine and the rest of Europe with energy security means Canada “certainly can and should ” find ways to reduce our own use of fossil fuels. .