Cenovus’s Judy Fairburn says the oil industry is focusing on alleviating climate change.
Judy Fairburn, the executive adviser of Alberta-based Cenovus Energy Inc., offered a surprising perspective of the petroleum industry at the 65th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference, held October 4-7 at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre. “The oil sands has changed its mindset,” said Fairburn, whose opening plenary lecture was titled Innovating Innovation. “We know that climate change is the elephant in the room. We know that people ultimately don’t like our product — oil — and we have to fix that,” said Fairburn, who is chair of the Shareholder Steering Committee of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). “Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our time,” added Fairburn, who also serves on the Strategy Steering Group for the CAPP Integrated Oil Sands CEO Council.
The oil industry is responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — the cause of climate change. Although “eliminating GHGs is a really complex problem,” the ultimate objective for the industry is “zero — yes zero — emissions from our oil,” Fairburn told delegates at the conference, themed “Shaping Energy Technology for the Future.” But the solution isn’t the elimination of petroleum, said Fairburn, who has an MSc in chemical engineering and an MBA. Rather, the challenge is preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere. If chemical engineers need motivation beyond helping slow climate change, there is the US $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, announced at the end of September, to be awarded for technologies that convert CO2 emissions into valuable products. “We can’t throw up our hands and give up,” Fairburn said.
Other plenary speakers at the four-day conference, which attracted more than 1,000 delegates from 27 countries, included James Tour of Rice University in Texas, the R.S. Jane Memorial Award lecturer James Piret, FCIC, of the University of British Columbia, and Tom Stanley, of General Electric Company in the United States. The conference also heard six CSChE Award lectures, numerous keynote speakers and a host of talks ranging from thermochemical conversion processes to carbon capture and storage and process safety. The student conference program was packed. Events included the Graduate Student Poster Competition, the popular three-minute poster competition, the Robert G. Auld and Reg Friesen competitions and career development workshops, topped off with a banquet at Calgary’s famous Heritage Park Historical Village.
Young delegates whooped it up at the 65th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference student banquet, held at historical Heritage Park.