Oilsands bitumen could be on the table when Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas meets with Chinese officials this week and next.
The Red Deer South MLA departs for China today on a 10-day mission that will take him to several cities, including Beijing.
In addition to attending the China International Petroleum and Petrochemical Technology and Equipment Exhibition and Alberta-China Environmental Technology Workshops, Dallas will meet with representatives of government, industry and economic development organizations.
“There’s a trade component and there’s an investment attraction component to the visit,” he said, adding that the subject of bitumen refining is also likely to come up.
“No question, there are opportunities there.”
In January, Dallas and Premier Alison Redford confirmed that India had expressed interest in refining Alberta bitumen. Dallas noted that some Indian refineries were already testing Alberta crude.
He reiterated on Monday the potential for oilsands bitumen to be processed in Asia, describing recent conversations he has had with companies that operate docking facilities on the Mississippi River.
“They have been talking to corporate interests from these Asian countries that are interested in the possibility of looking at shipping (Canadian crude) directly from those kinds of locations.”
Dallas said a key focus of his mission will be how Alberta can work with its provincial counterparts in China in the areas of responsible resource development and environmental protection.
“This is more specifically around identifying opportunities and understanding some of the challenges from an environmental performance and management perspective . . . and how we can participate in terms of providing Alberta corporate expertise.”
Eight Alberta companies are expected to exhibit at the China International Petroleum and Petrochemical Technology and Equipment Exhibition, and 10 will be delegates at Alberta-China Environmental Technology Workshops.
“I’ll have some opportunity to be there and support those companies as well,” said Dallas.
His itinerary includes meetings with government officials from Sichuan and Heilongjiang provinces, as well as from the Chinese ministry of commerce and the ministry of foreign affairs. Dallas will also sit down with the Canadian ambassador to China, and with various trade and economic development organizations.
“China is a huge priority market for us and Alberta has a competitive advantage with many of the products that are in demand, particularly energy and environmental goods and services.”
Dallas’s mission to China comes on the heals of a March 4 to 9 trip to New Orleans, La., where he attended the World Heavy Oil Congress. He participated in a panel discussion about the infrastructure challenges of heavy oil transportation, and also took part in the opening ceremonies — where former United States secretary of energy Steven Chu addressed the Congress.
“He spoke very specifically about work that was happening in Alberta around the oilsands and some of the extraction and environmental mitigation technology,” said Dallas, adding that he later spoke with Chu over a coffee.
They discussed Alberta’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its energy industry — through such measures as the province’s emission reduction regulations, its climate change and emissions management fund, and its carbon capture and storage strategy — and the effect these initiatives might have on the United State’s decision with respect to the Keystone XL pipeline.
“I think his message to me was that that’s having a very positive impact, but you can’t do enough in the context of messaging to the broader American public as well about the very specific work that’s happening in Alberta.”
Dallas said the Congress gave him the opportunity to meet with a range of industry and government officials, including a number from Central and South America.
“That’s a region that we believe our energy technology developments have value, in terms of some challenging geologies for extraction work in Central and South America, as well as there seems to be a high level of interest in some of the environmental technologies.”
The 2015 World Heavy Oil Congress will be held in Edmonton.
The cost of Dallas’s trip to China, including one staff member, has been estimated at $24,660.