Canada’s federal government and other officials are getting the message that the oil and gas industry is vital to the country’s economy, that getting its product to new markets via pipelines is critical and that hydraulic fracturing is safe, says an industry leader.

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada led a 14-member team of its directors, employees and members to Ottawa this week to tell politicians about the importance of the oil and gas services sector and how government and industry can work together to promote investment.

“We told them about PSAC and what we mean to the [Gross Domestic Product], the economy in Alberta, as well as Canada as a whole,” Mark Salkeld, PSAC president and chief executive officer, told the Daily Oil Bulletin from Ottawa. “They were very pleased that we came. They were very pleased to learn about us and they want us to continue to come out here and talk to them.”

Collectively, PSAC members met with more than 20 cabinet ministers; Members of Parliament; deputy and assistant deputy ministers; Rona Ambrose, the leader of the opposition; critics from the Conservative party, and other political and senior government staff.

Teams of four or five people held a series of meetings over three days this week. They were armed with statistics such as: the oil and gas services sector contributed $75 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2009 (the most recent StatsCan figures available), extrapolating a figure of $91 billion in 2013.

The contingent focused on raising awareness about pipeline approvals, decommissioning inactive wells and hydraulic fracturing.

“We told them that we need to get market access — pipelines so that we can get our product to tidewater and more customers versus just the U.S.,” said Salkeld. “We asked them to continue to support our initiative to decommission wells because it’s putting people to work right away and it’s keeping people in that industry by filling those pipelines and it’s getting us out from underneath the thumb of just one customer and getting our products, [from] the most ethically and responsibly developed oil and gas energy in the world, to other markets.”

Last spring, PSAC asked the federal government for $500 million to decommission wells in Alberta (DOB, March 15, 2016).

According to PSAC, that funding will create jobs, retain expertise and skills, and provide economic and environmental benefits.

PSAC estimates that about 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the 75,000 inactive wells in the province could be decommissioned while putting thousands of people back to work.

Earlier in the year, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked for $156 million to fund a two-year reclamation program in his province that could reclaim 1,000 inactive wells and create 1,200 jobs.

“We’re just trying to keep the motion going for that,” said Salkeld.

Salkeld said PSAC has received positive feedback from its request but no funding. “We submitted it to the federal as well as the provincial government and both governments liked the whole idea; they’re just trying to figure out the best way to support it.”

The industry representatives let politicians know that there’s nothing wrong with hydraulic fracturing and it’s a very advanced technology, he said. “We’re the best at it in the world and the rest of the world is banging on our door to learn more and understand it. That was a part of each and every one of our meeting messages ... that we represent all of the hydraulic fracturing companies in Canada. We’re proud to do so and they’re a part of the mix.”

The politicians in turn encouraged PSAC members to support their climate change initiatives by developing innovative greenhouse gas emission-reducing technologies, which they are already doing, said Salkeld. “We’ve developed technologies that scrub clean wastewater so we’re not disposing of it down wells, we scrub fumes from engines, all sorts of technologies that are better for the environment,” he said.

Salkeld believes the result of this week’s meetings will be continued dialogue with the federal government.

“They’ve got initiatives out there and they’re looking for feedback from industry associations and subject matter experts so they’ve asked us to submit papers and responses, we’re going to follow up with meetings and get some of our members in those meetings, our subject matter experts,” he told the DOB.