How Green Technology is Driving Economic Diversification in Nisku
The sun is rising over at least some oil service firms in Nisku that have become poster children for exports and economic diversification
Today, a dozen MLAs and local mayors tour Nisku, North America’s second-largest energy services park, located south of Edmonton. They feel the oil service sector’s pain but also see its potential. Amid the idle rigs, shuttered workshops and darkened office windows burns a beacon of hope – those firms that sell environmental technology to the oil patch and wider markets.
Speaking to more than 100 attendees in March at Alberta Oil’s Energy Services Breakfast in Nisku, Petroleum Services Association of Canada CEO Mark Salkeld said firms that make or sell environmental technology that cuts costs and carbon emissions can increase revenue and slash operational expenditure. Carbon pricing and royalties that incent producers to cut costs are powerful drivers. At a time of low prices Alberta cannot be both the highest-cost producer and unable to get crude to tidewater through the lowest-cost and safest form of transport: pipelines. The triple whammy of polices, global glut and environmental scrutiny will help the industry emerge from the slump leaner, greener and in a pole position for the upswing.
Shaye Anderson, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont, who also attended the Energy Services Breakfast—to listen and learn, not as a speaker—says “Alberta’s oil industry is a global leader in environmental technology that cuts costs, keeps it competitive and lowers emissions.”Anderson is on the bus tour, organized by Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Association (LNEDA), whose remit is economic diversification. They are visiting Absolute Combustion International, identified by Alberta Oil last year as one of Canada’s top 25 innovators for its lean burn, highly efficient industrial burners that almost eliminate NOx pollution. Steel and cement fabricator oil service firms also have a diversification opportunity by pivoting to building solar power systems designed for the oil patch and Alberta’s harsh climate. These systems are mobile for new off-grid field developments, where solar power is cheaper than trucking in diesel for generators. “This is Alberta’s energy industry at its best,” Anderson says. “It’s nimble, versatile and resilient.”
Anderson played a key role in helping these firms pivot to making oil patch renewable systems. After his election in May, Leduc #1’s Energy Discovery Centre approached him about its Living Energy Project
Solar system frames also need aluminum, expanding Alberta’s limited aluminum extruder manufacturing base. When the government launches its support program for renewable energy in the fall, Albertan oil service firms can get to work selling renewable systems outside the patch, instead of the program sucking in U.S. and Ontario imports.
Hopefully Alberta has learned from the horrendous mistakes in Ontario, where soaring power costs may drive manufacturers out of the province. Alberta’s already rolled out a successful petrochemical support program, triggering rival projects vying to bring in Kuwaiti and U.S. investment. The government expects to get back more in increased corporation tax from the expanded manufacturing base than it spends on subsidies.
For the oil services industry, as PSAC’s Salkeld points out, the low loonie, Alberta’s tough environmental regulations that drive oil technology, and Canada’s global reputation for that world-class technology open a window of opportunity for overseas exports.
Edmonton’s International Airport (EIA) business development officials are also on the bus tour. Along with LNEDA they are developing Alberta International Region. EIA has a Foreign Trade Zone Point and is adjacent to a highway corridor, Nisku’s rail terminal and warehousing and Edmonton’s supply chain.
So the sun is rising over at least some oil service firms in Nisku that have become poster children for exports and economic diversification.
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