Latest blog posts

Posted on October 20th, 2016 – By Mark Lowey, for CESAR

Alberta could simultaneously achieve two of its biggest energy objectives – accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired power and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands crude production – using a readily available, proven technology, according to two major new studies (Figure 1) by the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) Initiative.

Expanding the use of combined heat and power (called cogeneration) technology) at steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) oil sands operations would cut more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Alberta’s electrical grid – and at a lower cost – than simply replacing coal with stand alone natural gas-fired power, the studies show.

Posted on June 14th, 2016 – By Mark Lowey

As a research group focused on how best to transform Canada’s energy systems towards sustainability, CESAR was very interested in the recent release of the Trottier Energy Futures Project report, Canada’s Challenge and Opportunity: Transformations for major reductions in GHG emissions. In this blog post, Mark Lowey reviews the report’s findings, including an interview with Project Manager Oskar Sigvaldason.  

Posted on April 26th, 2016 – By Ralph Torrie and David B. Layzell

The decline in the energy intensity of the Canadian economy between 1995 and 2010 reduced annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nearly 200 Mt CO2e – at least five times more than the impact of phasing out coal-fired power in Ontario, a measure that is often cited as the single largest GHG reduction measure in North America.  Clearly, there is an elephant in the room.

Posted on April 14th, 2016 – By Mark Lowey

Alberta’s oil sands can play an important role in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the province’s electrical grid as coal is phased out and more renewables are brought on, a study by the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) initiative shows.

CESAR’s scenario modelling found that adding a lot more cogeneration capacity to provide the heat and power for steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations would not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from SAGD, but have an even larger impact on emission reductions associated with the province’s electrical grid. SAGD cogeneration, the CESAR team says, would be a very effective strategy to decrease the GHG footprint of oil sands crude production, phase out coal-fired power and increase the contribution of renewables to the Alberta grid – all while maintaining grid reliability and keeping a lid on power prices.

Posted on March 29th, 2016 – By Mark Lowey

Improving energy efficiency in Alberta’s residential housing sector could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 4 million tonnes annually compared to a business as usual (BAU) scenario – or over 122 million tonnes by 2060, reports a group of University of Calgary engineering students working with David Layzell, professor and director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) initiative at the University of Calgary.

Posted on March 15th, 2016 – By David B. Layzell and Bas Straatman

During the last three decades, technological innovations – especially digital technologies – have transformed the music, film, book, mass media, photography and telecommunications sectors. Companies that dominated these sectors 20 years ago either no longer exist, or are a shadow of their former selves. Many experts predict that personal light-duty vehicle transportation is the next major sector on the cusp of technology disruption and transformation. To explore the potential impact of electric vehicles on the energy systems of Alberta, we carried out a scenario modelling study that can be downloaded here. This study is the focus of today’s blog post.

Posted on February 9th, 2016 – By Mark Lowey

Deploying molten carbonate fuel cell technology in the oil sands could significantly reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions and has the potential to be cost-effective under the province’s carbon tax, reports a group of University of Calgary engineering students (Figure 1) working with David Layzell, professor and director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) initiative at the university.

Posted on January 26th, 2016 – By David B. Layzell, Bas Straatman and Mark Lowey

For many years, governments in Canada and Alberta have predicted a prosperous future based on sustained pricing of about $US90 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil. Such a price had been predicted to drive oil sands production to more than 5 million barrels per day by 2040, from the current level of approximately 2.3 million b/d. As a result, Alberta’s population was estimated to rise to about 6.2 million people (currently 4.1 million) by 2040 and deliver a provincial GDP of more than $380 billion per year (currently approximately $215 billion/yr).

Such high oil sands growth (HOSG) projections do not seem realistic in 2016, with WTI prices now under $US35 per barrel and Canadian bitumen discounted by at least $15 per barrel on that price – with no respite in sight. Clearly, a low oil sands growth (LOSG) projection may provide a better window on the future, especially when these projections are needed to inform economic and environmental policies, including those guiding the transformation of our energy systems to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meet climate change commitments.

Posted on January 12th, 2016 –

Forty-nine University of Calgary students showcased their research projects on energy systems change and ways to significantly reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions at a special, by-invitation event held in downtown Calgary in December, 2015.

Organized by Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) Initiative, the “Scenarios for Alberta’s Energy Future” event at the Calgary Marriott Downtown attracted about 140 people. It was jointly sponsored by the University of CalgaryCESAR and the Energy Futures Lab.

Posted on September 8th, 2015 – Op-Ed article by David B. Layzell and Manfred Klein. Published in The Globe and Mail on August 22nd, 2015.

On August 14, 2015, the new government in Alberta released its “Climate Leadership Discussion Document” as part of their plan to 'take more of a leadership role' in addressing climate change. CESAR researchers have been exploring cost-effective strategies to transform Alberta’s energy systems to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so over the next few months, we will post on, the results of some of our analyses.

Today’s blog is a reprint of an Op-Ed piece we published in the Globe and Mail on 22 August, 2015. It describes the integration of oil sands operations and low carbon electricity generation in the province. We see it as an important, 'Made-in Alberta' opportunity for major GHG emission reductions. Future blogs will provide more details on the assumptions and calculations behind this Op-Ed.