Jobs Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer said Alberta’s economic diversification is well underway, with advances into geothermal power, mining former oil wells and even an expansion of the television industry.
“I definitely think there’s lot of opportunities for Albertans who worked in the oilfield,” said Schweitzer, who spoke at a Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce webinar on Thursday.
While the minister was optimistic about Alberta’s oil and gas sector — noting oil has climbed to $60 a barrel and the Trans Mountain Pipeline is under construction to get the product to foreign markets — Schweitzer said Albertans who lost jobs in this sector will have opportunities to transfer their skills to other industries.
He noted the private sector has already started investing in geothermal wells in the province to tap the earth’s heat for residential and commercial heating.
Eavor Technologies of Calgary has raised significant money for this, and plans to produce enough geothermal power to heat thousands of home over the next decade, said Schweitzer.
Hydrogen production from natural gas is also being explored in Alberta as the clean-burning fuel can be used for trains, trucks and other vehicles, he added.
Alberta companies are developing ways to mine abandoned oil wells for minerals, such as lithium, which are needed to produce car batteries, while other corporations are interested in finding different uses for bitumen, beyond combustion, said the minister.
Various uses for carbon fibre are being explored to capitalize on the low-carbon emission future economy, added Schweitzer.
“Alberta has immense potential in resources, technology, agriculture, and intellectual capital,” added the minister, who sees a lot of new jobs being created in the agricultural and financial tech sectors.
He said the province also plans to push tourism after the pandemic. And Alberta is already seeing big gains in the television and film industry.
“We’re having our best year in 20 years,” he said, despite COVID-19.
Schweitzer said at least five TV series are being shot around Alberta, including Guilty Party, starring Kate Beckinsale and a reboot of Fraggle Rock.
Since construction, driving and caterings skills are all transferable — and are needed in the film industry— the minister anticipates more hiring opportunities will be created throughout the province.