Latest blog posts

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.

Posted on February 24th, 2015 – By Bastiaan Straatman and David B. Layzell

The Canadian government has committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% of 2006 levels by 2020 and to 30%-40% by 2050. Given that the auditor general has recently noted that we are not on track to meet these commitments, an obvious question is how far off are we?  Even more important from a policy perspective is the need to understand the potential of specific technologies or policies in helping to close this gap. 

Posted on January 6th, 2015 – By Benjamin Israel and David B. Layzell

On Dec 11, 2014, researchers from HEC Montreal, the Business School at University Montreal, released an assessment of the State of Energy in Quebec. The French-only report - État de l’énergie in Quebec – 2015 - received much attention in the province, but less so in other parts of Canada, even though the insights are important and relevant to all Canadians. As contributors of both data and graphics to this study, CESAR researchers have a special interest in the work, and thought that a blog on the report would be a good way to kick off 2015.

Posted on June 11th, 2014 – By Bastiaan Straatman and David B. Layzell

We are often asked where we get the numbers to generate the ‘Sankey’ diagrams in CESARnet that represent the Canadian energy systems. Some assume that these Sankey diagrams are calculated by summing the flows of oil, natural gas or electrons moving through pipes or wires. This is not correct...