Like so many parts of the world, being an Albertan has been fraught with unique challenges since the turn of the decade. The early days of 2020 brought a pandemic, a poor economy, and an oil price crisis in March and April. Alberta enjoyed a swift recovery before commodity pricing further increased in value as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. New green initiatives paved the way for shutting down coal plants in the province, decreasing our total marketable coal by almost 30 percent in 2021 according to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). Tempering this transition was the fact that our provincial resources include several forms of coal for differing applications, and our oil and natural gas resources offer various forms of product, as well. This offers the producers several ways to meet Alberta’s needs.
Alberta’s rich geological composition offers us sub-bituminous coal from the plains – low-energy coal that’s perfect for residential power and heat generation. Further west sees foothills offering high-energy coal to fuel electrical generators abroad, but this coal requires processing before it can be exported. Where the foothills give way to the mountains, metallurgical bituminous coal is mined and used for steelmaking. Preparation plants support processing by removing rocks and other impurities in the coal before it is crushed and shaped for shipment.
Huge deposits of natural gas in Alberta provide a number of useful products including methane, ethane, pentane, propane, butane and sulphur. Alberta’s natural gas is composed of about one-third sulphur, making it the largest producer (85%) of sour gas in Canada. Once the gas has been processed and cleaned, it travels to its final destination in various industrial sectors, primarily as methane. Natural gas is an alternative to coal in electricity generation, offering a viable alternative to coal-fired plants.
Alberta’s conventional crude oil is described as being either ‘light oil’ or ‘heavy oil’. Light oil can be transported easily through pipelines and when it is further refined can be used as transportation fuel. While the average Albertan is aware that they benefit directly from refined gasoline and diesel, it is important to note the production of jet fuel – responsible for maintaining the aviation industry – that is also made right here. Heavy oils produce less fuel for transportation and more for heat generation. This heavy oil is thicker and more difficult to move and must be pumped or diluted in order to transport it.
*Watch for our next article where we explore the natural resources available in Alberta’s oil sands as well as in southern Alberta.
Do you have a question about Alberta’s energy industry? Let us know! At Burst we are happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have, as well as make some recommendations on how to optimize your energy spending. Take a look at our Natural Gas Fixed and Floating Rates and our Electricity Fixed and Variable Rates to compare our rates with other natural gas providers near you.
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