Posted on Jun 10, 2021


CALGARY - Alberta‘s NDP is putting forward a suite of proposals that will allow the energy industry to get more value for resources at the “bottom of the barrel” as it supports transformation on the province’s path to diversify the economy, protect and create jobs and secure the economic future.

The proposals centre around asphaltenes, which are a dark constituent of crude oil and are particularly common in heavy oils and bitumen. These asphaltenes are often referred to as being at “the bottom of the barrel,” and account for 15-20 per cent of the content in a barrel of bitumen.

“Our world is changing rapidly. Over the coming decades, we will see a significant energy transformation,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “I believe our oil and gas sector can be part of that transformation and help lead us down the path to net-zero.

“Even in a low-carbon economy, oil will continue to be an essential building block; however, we will use it in new and creative ways to extract maximum value while lowering emissions.”

A study from the University of Calgary estimates asphaltene removal and processing could add between $10-15 per barrel and free up to 30 per cent of general pipeline capacity, due to a reduced need for diluents. These processes also have the potential to reduce emissions by at least 17 per cent. 

The previous NDP government promoted asphaltene extraction and partial upgrading technologies through the Partial Upgrading Program and starting a multi-year bitumen beyond combustion research program through Alberta Innovates.

To support further investments in asphaltene extraction processes and other non-combustion bitumen technologies, Alberta’s NDP are proposing to:

  • Push Ottawa to recognize asphaltene extraction and other partial upgrading technologies under the Canadian Clean Fuel Standard to create credits.
  • Push Ottawa to consider making extraction technologies eligible under the Carbon Capture Utilization & Storage tax credit that is being developed.
  • Integrate asphaltene extraction, processing and other partial upgrading technologies as a separate stream under the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program, or consider a redeveloped partial upgrading program.
  • Promote products derived from asphaltenes to become a key component in provincial or federal manufacturing strategies.
  • Provide stable funding for Alberta Innovates so it can continue its leading research and innovation promotion through its bitumen beyond combustion program and enable applied research in agriculture, construction and manufacturing. 

“Alberta has the opportunity to become a premier supplier of low-cost carbon, adding diversity and resilience to our economy,” said Warren Chung, President of Well Resources. “Albertans have the knowledge, the willpower, and, given the right legislative framework, there will be tremendous incentive to meet our climate action targets. 

“The key to unlocking all of this untapped potential will be ensuring that our leaders effectively and definitively recognize all of these new and disruptive technologies.”

Alberta Innovates estimates that non-combustion products could be an $84 billion market for the industry by 2030. 

“Reducing emissions and diversifying our economy is a big opportunity for our oil industry,” said Alberta NDP Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley. “These kinds of technologies can offer new pathways for our industry in a world moving to net-zero and provide some certainty for families and workers whose income depends on the energy industry.”

Alberta’s NDP will consult with Albertans on more opportunities to enhance and promote bitumen beyond combustion through A formal policy proposal is attached to this release.