About the industry

Albertans own 81% of the province's energy resources. These resources are the backbone of the provincial economy and a vital element of Canada's economy. Energy development is the largest contributor to the province's GDP, capital investments and exports. 

Alberta has overcome many energy industry challenges and has earned a reputation as a global leader in ingenuity and innovation. Alberta's reserves are developed in some of the most challenging and varied conditions on the globe, and this highly competitive industry is skilled in dealing with conditions including temperature extremes, permafrost and vast distances.

The Government of Alberta works with industry to promote innovation and technology that helps in evolving our energy sector. Millions of dollars are invested each year by both government and industry to advance research and technological innovations for enhancing the sustainable development of energy resources.

The Alberta Energy Regulator forecasts that by 2023 bitumen production will rise from the current 2.1 million barrels per day to 4.1 million barrels per day. Several technical challenges must be overcome for the energy industry to remain competitive and environmentally aware. Examples include air, water, and land management, natural gas substitution, infrastructure constraints, and improved recovery and processing methods. The oil and gas technology and services sector is a key player in meeting these challenges. Through advancements made in technology and innovation, businesses in these sectors position themselves to become vital suppliers of technologies and services to the global market.

Oil and gas services and technologies fast facts

  • Revenues for oil and gas technology and services totaled about $33 billion in 2013. The industry nearly tripled in size between 2003 and 2013.
  • There were over 8,600 equipment and service firms employing 110,000 Albertans in 2014.
  • In 2014, exports in the sector totaled $3 billion, representing an increase of close to 7% from 2013.
  • Alberta is home to the third largest crude oil resource in the world. The majority of the resource is found in Alberta's oil sands with proven reserves of over 170 billion barrels of bitumen that can be economically extracted using current technologies. As new technologies are developed, the ultimate potential for bitumen reserves could increase significantly to over 300 billion barrels of bitumen supply.
  • Alberta produces 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil of which about 78% is raw bitumen from oil sands. A large portion of the bitumen produced is upgraded to a lighter, more valuable synthetic crude oil (sco) that is provided to domestic and international refineries for further processing.
  • Alberta has extensive natural gas resources that include conventional natural gas plus unconventional coalbed methane and shale gas supplies. Reserves of conventional natural gas currently stand at 33 trillion cubic feet (tcf) and 2.4 tcf from coalbed methane. The province estimates the remaining ultimate potential of marketable conventional natural gas to be 74 trillion cubic feet. Given the early stage of development of shale gas in Alberta, the reserve potential has not yet been assessed.
  • Current production of natural gas in Alberta is approximately 4 tcf that is transported to both Canadian and US markets.
  • Alberta has a massive energy resource in coal. The current estimate for reserves of all types of coal in the province is about 33.3 billion tonnes (36.7 billion tons). This source of energy meets the need of Albertans supplying fuel for about 59% of the province’s electricity generation.

Areas of expertise

The oil and gas technology and services industry provides a large value-added component to Alberta’s economy and is instrumental in the development of Alberta’s unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. Capital investment in oil sands, heavy oil and unconventional gas projects will provide a continuous source of demand for businesses in this sector.

  • Products and services: Oil and gas technology and services is focused on upstream-related oil and gas equipment and services. Upstream-related products and services include seismic and geological services, drilling and completions, and advanced production techniques. This important industry sector focuses on such areas as: multilateral drilling technologies, non-invasive drilling fluids, swell packer stimulation technologies, coiled tubing expertise and benefits, innovative pumping technologies, non-traditional well configurations, and geosteering of horizontal wells in real time. 
  • Oil and Gas Equipment (Predominant/Proactive Sector): Alberta has the world’s third largest proven crude oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Canada is the world’s third largest supplier of natural gas, with Alberta accounting for 80% of Canadian production. Alberta’s oil and gas industry is constantly growing along with its need for technology and services. The Alberta Government is committed to improving extraction technologies for conventional oil production; i.e. advanced seismic and horizontal drilling.   
  • Research and Development: Equally important is continued research and development efforts pertaining to unconventional gas development. Specifically, industry leaders feel that R&D efforts are required regarding:  
    • Deep coal
    • Coal fines mitigation
    • Sheared coal reserves
    • Co-mingling coals with variable reservoir properties
    • Reservoir characterization from drill cuttings
    • Fracture design and fluid selection
    • Fracture and produced fluid recovery
    • Drilling and fracture stimulation of under-pressured and water sensitive reservoirs
    • Stratified reservoirs
    • Frac sand supply and use
    • Use of non-potable water for drilling and fracturing operations

Research infrastructure

The energy technology and services industry supports client companies in a variety of research institutions that enable this diverse industry to support the oil and gas industry in the province.

  • Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions : Formerly the Alberta Energy Research Institute, this Government of Alberta-led organization collaborates with industry to help develop innovative and integrated ways to convert Alberta's natural resources into market-ready, ecologically responsible energy.
  • Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures : This provincially funded organization builds on the work of the former Alberta Research Council by helping technical industries develop products and move technologies to market.
  • Alberta Sulphur Research Ltd. (ASRL) : ASRL fosters research in the areas of the chemistry and technology of sulphur and its compounds with particular emphasis on recovery of sour natural gas, Claus plant operations, handling and transportation of elemental sulphur, and environmental aspects of the gas and sulphur industries.  
  • Canadian Centre of Mineral and Energy Technologies (CANMET) : The CANMET Energy Technology Centre performs and sponsors energy research, technology development and demonstration within Natural Resources Canada. CETC/CANMET works in a variety of partnership arrangements on the research, development, demonstration, export and outreach of innovative energy-efficient and climate-change mitigating technologies associated with alternative, renewable and conventional energy.
  • Canadian Gas Association (CGA) : CGA develops energy industry policy positions, and makes submissions to organizations such as parliamentary committees and the Council of Energy Ministers. CGA also produces educational and environmental information for consumers and organizes training schools, workshops, seminars and conferences.  
  • C-FER Technologies : C-FER Technologies’ structural, mechanical, petroleum and reliability engineers conduct applied research and development, perform full-scale testing and provide engineering consulting to the upstream oil and gas, and pipeline transmission industries, as well as other industries with structural problems. C-FER was acquired by the Alberta Research Council in 1999.
  • Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) : PTAC is a not-for-profit association that facilitates collaborative research and technology development to improve the financial, environmental and safety performance of the Canadian upstream conventional oil and gas industry.

Natural gas and coal bed methane

Alberta has an estimated 38.8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of remaining established natural gas reserves. Alberta is one of the world's largest suppliers of natural gas, accounting for almost 80% of the natural gas produced in Canada.

Learn more

Conventional crude oil and oil sands

Alberta's oil industry is finding innovative, efficient ways to extract a higher percentage of oil from conventional reservoirs.

Learn more

Coal and minerals

Canada is ranked in the top ten nations for coal, with close to 10 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves. The majority of those reserves are located in the province of Alberta.

Learn more