Thanks to technological advances and modular facilities, leading oilsands companies are increasing bitumen production while cutting the numbers of people they employ and spending less money, says a new Corporate Mapping Project report published this morning by the Parkland Institute.
More than 34,000 oil and gas workers in Alberta have lost their jobs since the 2014 oil price crash, and there’s very little evidence to indicate those jobs are ever coming back, said Ian Hussey, author of The Future of Alberta’s Oil Sands Industry: More Production, Less Capital, Fewer Jobs.
“Oilsands capital spending is forecast to further decline in the next decade,” Hussey said. “The massive capital spending of the growth phase of the oil sands industry is over.”
“That and recent trends in extractive technologies and facility design cast further doubt on oil sands employment increasing significantly in the future,” he continued.
The report argues the oilsands industry has shifted from a growth phase that began in 2000 and petered out in 2018, to a mature phase that began last year. “Bitumen production grew 376 per cent from 2000 through 2018,” the report says. “The Canadian Energy Regulator predicts bitumen production will grow 1.41 million barrels per day by 2040, or 41 per cent over 2018 levels.”
But between September 2014 and January 2020, the industry cut 34,572 jobs. Meanwhile, oilsands capital spending saw an estimated decrease of 64.6 per cent. “The massive capital spending of the growth phase of the oil sands industry is over,” Hussey said.
At the same time, the same industry that is cutting expenditures and jobs is also the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions in Canada, he said.
“Given the urgent need for science-based emissions reductions, Albertans have to ask if it’s worth it to continue betting on the cost-cutting and job-cutting oil sands industry, or if now is the time to position our province to more fully benefit from the ongoing global energy transition,” Hussey concluded.
The Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. The Corporate Mapping Project is a six-year research and public engagement initiative jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. and Saskatchewan Offices, and the Parkland Institute. The research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.