When Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland considers the carbon capture and storage network proposed for his region by Pathways Alliance, he sees well beyond the turbocharged economic boost a project of this magnitude would bring.
Make no mistake, the city’s mayor of 16 years is wide-eyed by the prospect of new economic modelling by Nichols Applied Management showing $16.5 billion in GDP growth from the project and as many as 35,000 direct and indirect jobs at the peak of construction of the 400-kilometre pipeline linking production facilities northeastern Alberta with a carbon sequestration hub in the Cold Lake region.
But for Copeland, it’s the assurance of the long-term stability of an energy industry that has meant so much to the prosperity of his community that has him most excited.
“Our community has a long history with the energy industry and we see the benefits from that and want them to continue,” says Copeland.
“Carbon capture and storage gives Alberta’s energy industry an advantage around the world, demonstrating we develop this resource responsibly. The companies spend a lot of money on environment, social and governance initiatives that are highly attractive to the investment world. Taking the carbon out and safely storing it should be the final hurdle in ensuring our oil has improved access around the world.”
Copeland recognizes the proposed Pathways project could come at the same time the region is benefitting from a major capital investment at 4 Wing Cold Lake for improvements that among other things will include a 50,000 square-metre office building and new hangars to accommodate Canada’s significant F-35 fighter jet purchase.
But he considers that “a good problem to have.”
“We have applied to the federal government’s new housing program to help build more rental and low-income housing. We do have hotels. We have options to help absorb workers from these projects in our community,” he said.
Copeland’s views are shared by the organization representing a lot of the skilled trades that would work on the project.
“This project will create lots of jobs for craft workers throughout the country but even more importantly, it will extend the longevity of the oil sands and the benefits that industry generates to Alberta and Canada,” says Sean Strickland, executive director for Canada’s Building Trades Unions, which represents more than 600,000 skilled trades workers across the country.
“We wholeheartedly support this project because we don’t want to see our workers left behind by the energy transition. This is Infrastructure 2.0. We already have built the production facilities and the pipelines to extract and ship the oil. This project extends those economic benefits and the associated jobs to our workers in maintaining that original infrastructure.”
The Nichols analysis estimates the benefits from the project will continue once it is completed and operating. It will add about $1 billion annually to Canada’s GDP.
Copeland is not sure how many of those permanent jobs would come to his community. Economic benefits will be wide ranging along the proposed route from Fort McMurray through to the Cold Lake region. However, he sees an even bigger benefit in having the current level of oil production in the region maintained or even expanded.
“Pathways will backstop the existing production to the area. The Cold Lake Oil Sands have a lot of reserves and we want to see those resources brought to markets because we know they are produced responsibly. This project is proof positive of that fact.”
“The flip side is if you don’t build this project and don’t make that transition to the net-zero world, you will lose jobs in the traditional oil-and-gas sector,” Strickland says. “Moving forward with this project is in the best interest of Canada and Alberta.”
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