The smog-choked skies over Chinese cities are attracting plenty of attention — especially in China. And that’s creating opportunities for Alberta’s energy sector, says the province’s minister of international and intergovernmental relations.
Cal Dallas was in the Asian country March 12 to 21 as part of a trade mission that took him to the cities of Chengdu, Harbin, Beijing and Tianjin. Much of that time was spent on environmental issues, he said, including at environmental technology workshops in Chengdu and Harbin.
“Environmental mitigation has moved way up the policy priorities,” said Dallas, who’s the MLA for Red Deer South. “There’s a lot of concern around air quality in the bigger cities.”
Chinese officials are also worried about soil and groundwater contamination, he added, as well as the environmental impact of human settlement.
The environmental technology workshops, which attracted representatives of government and industry, each featured a half-dozen Alberta companies, as well as officials from Alberta Innovates Energy and Environment, and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures.
“There’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing in Alberta in terms of cumulative effects management — the technology that’s here that’s being utilized in Alberta,” said Dallas.
The Chinese are serious about change, he pointed out, describing initiatives to convert trucks, buses and even rail locomotives to natural gas use.
They’re also looking to Alberta for guidance when it comes to responsible oil and gas production, said Dallas, noting that the sprawling country is “a substantial energy producer.”
In Sichuan province, for example, there are shale gas resources that could benefit from Alberta technology and expertise.
Dallas also attended the China International Petroleum and Petrochemical Technology and Equipment Exhibition, which is billed as the largest petroleum exhibition in Asia.
A number of Alberta companies set up displays in the Alberta pavilion there.
“They were very pleased with what they saw and the work they were doing,” said Dallas, describing how the presence of Alberta government officials helps open doors.
“In the Chinese culture and in the Chinese government, they place great value on that.”
China continues to view Canada as a preferred energy provider, said Dallas, although continued delays in developing pipeline connections to coastal ports in this country isn’t helping.
“There’s a continued frustration in terms of our ability to develop the infrastructure necessary to move that potential product to market, and allow them to compete for that product.”
China also remains an important source of investment dollars to help develop Alberta’s energy sector, especially the oilsands, he added.
Dallas met with a variety of government, industry and economic development organizations while in China.
He said these continued the “China engagement strategy” that his government has adopted — a strategy that’s resulted in several other Alberta missions to China during the past year, and increased trade offices and staff there.
Dallas believes this strategy is starting to pay dividends, and is confident it will continue despite Alison Redford’s resignation as premier.
“My commitment is to continue that work, and these changes won’t impede that in any way.
“This is something now that Premier (Dave) Hancock and all of my colleagues are fully supportive of.”