Oilsands firms see trend of benefits from emission cutting targets, observers say

In one of his last interactions with reporters before retiring as CEO of Calgary-based Imperial Oil Ltd., veteran oilman Rich Kruger was typically plain-spoken when asked about the carbon footprint of the oilsands.

“We reduced the carbon intensity of every barrel we produce in the oilsands by about 20 per cent over the last five years. (But) we don’t brag about it,” he said.

Asked about rival Suncor Energy Inc.’s just-announced plan to build a $300-million wind power project in southern Alberta, and Spanish energy giant Repsol’s intention to invest in low-carbon electricity generation to get to net zero emissions by 2050, Kruger said his company isn’t interested in spending just to appear to be more environmentally sensitive.

“We look at opportunities,” he said.

“If they can add (shareholder) value, and we believe they can be a material part of our future, we’re certainly willing and have the ability to do it. We haven’t found many of those yet.”

Bragging about carbon intensity reduction targets and adding renewable energy projects to earn credits to offset overall emissions is a trend with benefits for oil and gas companies that goes far beyond polishing reputations, observers say.

“The immediate risk for companies that don’t have a plan around broader de-carbonization is that they will exclude themselves from a bunch of the investor pools,” said Andrew Swart, a partner and global mining and metals leader for accounting firm Deloitte.

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